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Sam sank onto one of the kitchen stools as she flipped through the pictures. They were pictures of all of the guys, their wives and their children. Each picture had a bull’s eye drawn onto it with permanent marker and contained a number in the center of each bull’s eye. AJ’s picture was the last in the stack and it had the highest number. Knowing that only one person could have sent it, her hand trembled as she opened the letter.

Dear Samantha,

You must have thought that you had been granted a reprieve for all your sins because of the lack of visitation from me. You should have known better, I never give up until I get what’s mine. And frankly, you haven’t been that intelligent about keeping your whereabouts a secret.

Feel free to take a look at the pictures that I’ve sent. In case you are too slow to understand what I mean by the photos, let me explain it to you. For every day I have to wait for you to return to me, I will harm one person out of the group according to the number on their photo. I saved your dimwitted, pathetic paramour for last so that he can see all of the pain and destruction you’re going to cause.

Now, I say that you are going to cause this pain because I know how selfish and unfeeling you are. You’ve probably lied and cried about how I punished you. That would never have happened if you could just follow simple rules and instructions. You really did this to yourself.

You have two choices at this point. You can continue to be the self-centered bitch I know you are and put everyone around you in harm’s way; plead and beg that tattooed moron to save you from your “mean” husband. Or, which would come as a complete shock, you could meet me at the address written below in the next four hours and pretend like you actually care about someone besides yourself.

You know that I will not give up until you are returned to me and, if experience is a teacher, you know what types of surprises I have in store for all of your new friends. Let’s see what you decide.


A wave of nausea crashed through Sam’s stomach and she found it hard to catch her breath. She knew that Ryan was not kidding when he spoke about how he would hurt everyone around her and she also knew that he would thoroughly enjoy the pain that he would put each person through. As much as it killed her to know that this may well be her last day on Earth, she would meet her husband and take whatever punishment was coming her way. AJ and her friends had supported and cared for her since the very beginning and there was no way she would risk anything happening to anyone.

She threw the letter and the photos in the trash, wrote a quick note to AJ and left her keys and phone on the counter next to the paper. Setting the alarm, she took one last quick look around at the only sanctuary that she had known since she was a child living with her parents and then slipped quietly out of the house.


“Thanks for coming to get me Drew.”

AJ appreciated his friend picking him up from the airport. He hadn’t been able to reach Nick, who had promised to get him, nor could he ask Sam to come get him; he would never put her in that kind of danger.

“No problem J.” Drew responded. “It sucks that Nick blew you off.”

AJ nodded and decided to try his brother’s phone one more time to see what idiot distraction had kept Nick from picking him up. The cell phone rang three times before someone picked up.


“Lauren?” AJ asked with surprise. “Nick was supposed to come pick me up…”

AJ stopped short; how was Lauren able to answer Nick’s phone if she wasn’t with Nick? And, if she was Nick, were they still at his house with Sam?

“I know.” Lauren answered. “I’m sorry and I hate springing this on anyone but Nacho passed away this morning. I came home to help Nick take care of him.”

AJ felt awful because he knew how much his brother loved that dog. Nick was lucky to have Lauren to come home…what the hell?

“If you’re with Nick at your house, where is Sam?” AJ demanded.

Lauren paused for a moment and all AJ needed to know was in that silent reply.

“YOU LEFT HER ALONE!?!” AJ screamed into the phone. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“She promised to call if anything happened.” Lauren said tearfully. “She promised she’d…”

AJ was so angry that he hung up without listening to the rest of her statement. Drew gathered that, from AJ’s side of the conversation, that for whatever reason, Lauren had left Sam by herself and he also knew enough to not ask what happened. Instead, he pressed the accelerator further down and took off for AJ’s house at top speed.

It took them a few minutes to get there and, when they did, AJ jumped out of the SUV before Drew even came to a complete stop. Racing up the walkway, AJ dug out his key and quickly got the lock open.

“Sam! Sam!”

AJ tore through the house looking for his girlfriend and screaming her name at the top of his lungs. He couldn’t understand why she wasn’t answering him and he continued to search in a panic until Drew called out to him.

When AJ found his friend in the kitchen, he noticed the devastated look on his friend’s face. Following Drew’s finger, AJ finally noticed that Sam’s key, her phone and a piece of paper were lying on the counter. He picked the note up and read her short message; going crazy from fear, he crumpled the note and started knocking things over. Drew let him continue until he saw the pictures tumble out of the trash can that AJ had toppled.

Drew knelt down and picked up the pictures and the note that was next to them. After reading it, his heart sunk down to his feet; he knew what this meant for her. He finally got up and grabbed a hold of AJ, shoving the pictures and not into his friend’s chest.

“Here’s your answer.”

AJ flipped through the pictures and took a moment to read the words Ryan had written. His face turned white as a sheet and he could barely breathe. Thankfully, Drew knew what he wanted and they both ran for the car and took off to the destination Ryan had given Sam.