Scream

Sabrina’s words swirled around in my head for a minute. “Is that what you say every time you zone out and somebody dies?”

Little did she know, at that moment, I wished I could zone out and not remember the outcome. Sabrina had gotten on my last nerve. The vague innuendos about my involvement in her dramas had me on the verge of wanting to take her down, painfully.

“You know what?” I retorted. “Be happy I’m not zoning out now, dammit!” I plucked my phone off the ground and stuck it back on my hip.

As if she sensed the humor had left my body, Sabrina stopped laughing.

“Oh, Star, you know I’m joking! I ain’t got nothing to hold over your head.” She started that jumpy thing she habitually did with her eyes. It was the same shifty eye movement she’d displayed on the evening I showed up at her door. The day Ashley died.

My gut said I shouldn’t believe her. Sabrina possibly knew something about my past that could throw a wrench in my future.

I walked closer to the gate, closing the gap between us. “I’m going to tell you this only once, so listen up. Don’t start anything you can’t properly finish. I swear, if you begin to . . .”

Of what was seemingly its own volition, my neck snapped around. Had I just heard a gunshot? It couldn’t be. I squinted back in the direction I’d come, but the curve in the driveway concealed the house from view. Princess charged toward me, yapping and tugging at my skirt again. “I’ve got to go, I’ll be back.”

“What was that?” Sabrina asked, pushing her face against the bars like she could actually slither through.

“Stop that! You look like a fool.” By now, Princess was seriously trying to drag me up the driveway. “I’ve got to go—I’ll be right back.”

Sabrina frowned. “That hurt my feelings. I thought we was girls. Make it up to me, let me in and I’ll go with you for support.”

“You are going to keep your ass here. I said, I’ll be right back.”

Sabrina plopped onto the ground. “I knew I should have got in that big black ride that drove through earlier, but no—”

“You mean you’ve been here since Andrew drove up?” I screeched, shaking Princess off me.

Sabrina instantly perked up and climbed to her feet. “Andrew? As in Andrew Jackson Mason? Holy shit!”

I had to admit, Sabrina knowing Andrew had my curiosity peaked. But what peaked it more was the gunfire I’d heard. I had to get back to the house. I bent over and picked Princess up. I was definitely going to get my exercise today. Without a word to Sabrina I headed back toward the house, walking so fast, I could have been running.

“Hey, you didn’t answer my question,” Sabrina shouted after me.

In response, I continued to plow ahead, ignoring the growing soreness from my earlier sprint. I didn’t allow myself to catch my breath until I walked into the clearing and the house stood a few steps away. Princess began pawing at me, and I held her closer.

Screams and shouts were coming from somewhere in the house. I thought about walking around and peeking in windows, but if Vincent had been the one shooting off at the gun again, I could become a dead case of mistaken identity.

I crept up the stairs and tried the knob. The front door was unlocked. I eased it open and Princess began to squirm in earnest. “Shhh,” I whispered to her. I half-shut the door, keeping my back turned to it.

Vincent was arguing with somebody—maybe everybody the way it sounded. My heart lurched as I heard Eric trying to calm him down. I silently thanked God that he was okay.

Mason’s voice caused my heart to lurch again. They’d found him! “I think all of you should shoot that mothafucka before he kill my CeeCee,” I heard him say.

CeeCee? I shook my head in pity. The boy had obviously flipped out. I squeezed Princess, who let out a low whimper as she struggled in vain to extricate herself.

“Shut up, punk,” Vincent yelled, his voice making my own anger rise.

“Vince, please,” a female voice seemed to be pleading.

What the fuck?

I was so enthralled by who the woman was talking to Vincent that I darn near shut off Princess’ air supply, causing her to nip my hand and sending me reeling into the door, which slammed shut against its frame. The loud banging of the door was soon followed by more gunshots.

A scream involuntarily escaped my lips and Princess bounded out of my arms, seeking refuge behind a large potted plant near the door.

The house suddenly became a flurry of activity. I didn’t know whether to run to or away from Red and Alex when they walked into the foyer with guns drawn. Alex’s eyes met mine and he put down his gun. Red, however, still had his leveled on me.

“It’s just Starlet,” Alex said, outwardly breathing a sigh of relief. “Put the gun away.”

“Are you sure?” Red asked. “You know what happened to you at the hotel when you thought you didn’t need one. She could be packin’.”

Alex shot him a dirty look, and then turned back to look me over. “You okay?” he asked.

“I guess—can we say the same for everyone else? I heard the gunshots from outside, and then this. My God, what is going on?”

“It seems your brother-in-law has a fascination with triggers,” Alex grunted, shaking his head.

“He is not my brother-in-law. As a matter of fact, I can’t stand him,” I railed back. Red chuckled. Alex glared. Red put on a serious face.

“Hold that thought.” Alex walked toward the hall. “All clear in here. It’s just Starlet,” he called out.

Princess came skidding from her hiding place and I bent over just in time for her to come bounding into my arms. Poor baby must have been scared out of her wits. I stroked her head and was rewarded with a warm gush coming from her bottom. I cringed, already knowing what had happened.

“Oh, Princess, how could you?” She’d peed all over me. The stench of urine floated up to my nostrils. I dropped her to the floor.

Just then, Yanni appeared in the doorway, with one hand behind her back. “What happened to you?” she asked.

“Princess just pissed all over me—what do you think happened,” I spouted.

“Hey, don’t get bitchy with me, I didn’t piss on you,” she snapped back.

I was about to give her the what-for when I heard the woman from earlier scream repeatedly: “ANDREW!!!”