Prologue

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Lightning flashed outside her window and Norah sighed as she poured herself another cup of tea.

This weather was ridiculous. A storm with no rain seemed silly to her. Could you even call it a storm when there wasn't any rain? There wasn't enough lightning to classify as a lightning storm and the thunder was far off so she didn't know what to call it. Lightning flashed and looking out her kitchen window, she saw her neighbour in his backyard having a smoke. She knew his wife hated him smoking and he always snuck out in the middle of the night to have one. He looked over, saw her observing him and gave her a salute. Saluting back, she watched him take a final drag and go back inside, their porch light flicking off.

Grabbing her tea, she walked back into the living room and sat on the couch in front of her laptop. Wrapping her rug around her, she settled back in, determined to get past this block. A blank document shone from the laptop screen and she took a sip of tea, inspiration lacking.

For the past two hours she'd been stuck on her latest chapter. The protagonist needed to discover a big secret her boyfriend had been keeping from her but she was having trouble revealing it in the best way. So far, every attempt had lacked the impact the revelation was meant to have. Her protagonist needed to feel the impact in the core of her being, but Norah couldn't find that emotion. It was something she had no experience in. Her last boyfriend had been three years ago and he'd been the clingy type. In the end, she had to let him go. It was hard to like someone who spent their time breathing down her neck while she was trying to write. She'd told him how much it annoyed her but he didn't listen. If he wasn't going to listen, then she didn't want him around.

The clock on the mantle chimed two in the morning and she bit her lip. Part of the reason she was having trouble was because her brain was scattered. Her brother Adam had said he was doing a job tonight, something that never made her feel good. He'd been hanging out with a bad group of men for the last few months and these 'jobs' always took place in the middle of the night.

She knew he was doing something illegal but she couldn't bring herself to talk to him about it. Whenever she had tried to broach sensitive topics in the past, he would clam up and disappear for months, returning when he needed something from her, usually money. She didn't like to lend him money all the time but he was the only family she had left and she didn't want to push him out of her life, but at the same time she didn't want him becoming a criminal. In the end, the only way to keep him in her life was to remain quiet and never question what he did.

Her patience was beginning to wear thin lately, mainly because of Daniel, Adam's new best friend. He was always hanging around the house, looking for Adam when he wasn't around and he didn't know how to take a hint that he wasn't welcome. His random visits had been occurring more frequently over the last two weeks and she had decided to tell Adam she didn't want him hanging around anymore. Adam was usually protective of her and the last time one of his sleazy friends had tried something on her, he had gone nuts and beat his face in. Again, not something she was comfortable with but at that point in time, it had been preferred to him touching her and groping her. She didn't get a sleazy vibe off Daniel, but it was creepy enough for her alarm bells to ring whenever he was around. He was the wrong kind of dangerous and she didn't want him anywhere near her.

Bang bang!

Norah jumped, spilling tea down her top and cursed, fanning the material so she didn't burn her skin. The only person who would come to her house at this time of night was Adam. Still, just to be safe she grabbed her baseball bat she kept near the front door. Holding it behind her back, she called out. "Who is it?"

"Norah, open up its Adam!"

She was alarmed at the panicked tone in his voice and dropping the bat she opened the door, eyes widening at the sight.

Adam stood in the entryway, shoulders slumped. His eyes looked bloodshot and a flash of lightning cracked across the sky, lighting up his hands, stained with blood. The red liquid was splattered across his shirt and face. His left cheek was smeared and she guessed he'd wiped at his face. His brown hair was plastered to his face from a mixture of rain and sweat, a single strand hung over his left eye but he wasn't bothered by it. His eyes looked at her with a mixture of desperation and fear, his hands held out in front of him as if he didn't know what to do with them.

"Adam," she whispered, taking a small step back. Her eyes were drawn to his hands, the blood causing a ball of fear and nausea to form in the pit of her stomach. "What did you do?"

"Norah, you have to help me," his voice broke. "I really fucked up this time."

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