There was a direct path to the gravel pile, but Clara didn't take it. She wound her way around the backs of the houses instead, catching quick glimpses of the rocky mound as she approached from the rear.

She pulled the note from her pocket and unfolded it. Aside from the signature, the only words were a quickly scribbled "Need to talk to you" in the center of the page. The power of the terse message tugged at her as she stopped between two houses and stared through at the distant figure. With one foot planted on the steep pile of gravel he took a look around, turning his body toward the distant woods at the edge of the development. Clara watched the way his arms swung through the air before falling slack at his sides. Crazy that your brain can remember the way a person's body moves, she thought.

She walked further, passing behind the yard of the next house and fixating on the two words that had been cycling through her head for the previous six minutes since Melody had given her the message. Breach Point. She'd spent years trying to convince herself that what had happened in that town was over for good. And now she realized how silly that idea was. That summer had never really left her. There's no way it ever could.

She still had a clear picture of Nicholas' face from the last time she'd seen him. Nicholas Gilmartin. Their friendship had fizzled out after his visit to help her father. Nicholas had said that Kevin insisted on taking Eric up to her house by himself, but he'd convinced his uncle that he went along as well. Working out the logistics of the meeting had been almost too much for Clara. By the end of the visit, her father's cancer was gone, but she and Nicholas were barely speaking, and her mother – who refused to be present for Eric's "treatment" – thought Clara was in the midst of a psychotic break. Her parents' marriage couldn't bear the weight of the incident, and even with her father's health restored, they divorced two years later. Remembering that period, Clara wondered if she blamed Nicholas for what had happened. Her father might have recovered with traditional treatment, but they'd never given it a chance once the plans involving Eric had been made.

And Kevin. He hadn't made matters any better. He and Nicholas had spent those three days arguing about how and where to bring Eric to Clara's father, forcing Clara to mediate. In the end, the childish fantasy she'd had about the miraculous event had given way to a sloppy, barely-achieved escapade that had left a sour taste in everyone's mouths. She and Nicholas only communicated a few more times after that, but their texts were too strained for the friendship to continue. Clara never responded to his final message, and she'd held that regret in the back of her mind for years. Now, though, it rushed straight to the front.

Clara picked up her pace. She walked around the edge of the house and turned toward the gravel pile, revealing herself to the man standing next to it.

"Hello, Kevin," she said.

Kevin took a long drag from his cigarette. He turned and looked at Clara, making no effort to hide his perusal of her body.

"Damn, girl," he said with a dirty smirk. "Look who grew up."

Clara laughed as she gave Kevin the same review he'd given her. His once-rugged skin had grown puffy, and the trimmed beard he'd worn eight years earlier was now a monster threatening to take over his face. The tattoos on his arms looked like watercolor paintings that had been left out in the rain. His hair had grown thinner and the gray had overtaken the brown, but Kevin's demeanor hadn't seemed to change. Not for the better, anyway.

Clara set her focus on the cigarette dangling from his fingers. "It's not a good idea to smoke around here, Kevin," she said, slowly getting closer. "We have flammable materials all over the place--"

"Save it," he interrupted. He held the butt between two fingers and flicked it off into the grass with his free hand. Clara watched the glowing end spin in descending spirals. It seemed to move in slow motion.

"It's a shitty habit anyway," he added. "Imagining what my lungs must look like makes me wanna puke."

Clara was close enough now for a hug, but she decided she wouldn't be the one to initiate it.

"Any reason why you just don't quit, then?" she asked.

The grin left Kevin's face as he looked past Clara, off into the distance.

"To be honest," Kevin said, "I always felt like I had an insurance policy."

Clara nodded. They were close to being in each others' personal spaces but the hug didn't look like it was going to happen. 

"Is that why you're here?" she asked.

Kevin turned back to her and stared at her. He looked scary serious now.

"Yeah," he said. "It is."

"I can't even begin to imagine how you tracked me down," she said.

Kevin spun around, taking in more of the view around him.

"It was tough as hell!" he said. "How does a twenty-four year old girl have no social media presence whatsoever?"

"Hard work and dedication," Clara answered. "And once you hit your twenties, you're a woman, not a girl. Just an F.Y.I."

Kevin chuckled. "If you say so." 

Clara walked over, placing herself back into his line of vision.

"So how did you find me?" she asked.

"Your mom," Kevin said. "I guess she got the house she split with your dad? She didn't remember me at first, but--"

Clara busted in. "My mother?" She felt her chest tighten as her cheeks flushed. "You went and talked to--"

"Clara!"

They both turned to see a figure in the distance, off by the main site. Even with the harsh shadows, Clara recognized Ricardo as he called out to her. She waved.

"They need you back in the office!" Ricardo yelled.

"Okay," she called back. "I'll be right there!"

She watched Ricardo walk off, then turned back to Kevin.

"You pissed?" he asked.

"Pissed is a much milder version of what I'm feeling right now," she said. "But I'm working now and I need to get back to my crew."

"Yeah, I get that," he said. "But I'm not here to shoot the shit. When are you finished?"

"Six," she said.

"Okay. There's a diner in the center of town," Kevin said. "The Golden Dawn. I'm staying next door. How about we meet there at seven? My treat."

"Sure," Clara said, starting off toward the site. "Then you can tell me what's important enough for you to invade my privacy."

Kevin chuckled. "Whatever you say, boss."

Clara took one last look at him over her shoulder as she crossed into the next yard. She walked faster, smiling as she approached a group of workers mingling on the path that led back to the site. She told herself not to think about what had driven Kevin to find her here. Maybe it's nothing big, she thought. But her gut told her that whatever news Kevin had, she wouldn't be smiling soon.

Breach Point (Haunted)Read this story for FREE!