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AJ left a few days later for a short trip to meet with the producer and work on some material for his solo album and, just as promised, Lauren spent the time with Sam. His girlfriend was happy to spend time with her and she was happy that she had convinced him to finally get out of the house to do what he loved. The time seemed to fly by and, before she knew it, the time without AJ was almost over. He had called to tell her that he was coming back the next day and he seemed really refreshed and happy.

“You must be psyched to see him.” Lauren said as she helped Sam fold some laundry. “I bet you can’t wait till I leave!”

“Never!” Sam replied with a laugh. “I always love spending time with you.”

“Same here.”

“Good! I really appreciate you staying because I know I couldn’t get AJ to go out and do this if you hadn’t agreed to stay. I hope this didn’t take you away from Nick for too long.”

Lauren’s reply was cut off by her cell ringing and she smiled when she noticed the caller.

“Speak of the devil.”

Sam laughed and watched her friend leave the room. She knew how much Lauren and Nick loved each other and she was happy to be included in their lives. Lauren had really become her best friend, besides AJ, and she was glad that there were people she could count on and trust.

She noticed Lauren come back and when she looked up to meet her friend’s eyes, she noticed a sadness in them.

“What’s wrong?” she asked and dropped the socks she was folding. “What happened?”

“Nacho passed away last night.” Lauren replied as several tears made their way down her face. “Nick found him this morning.”

Sam felt awful; she knew how much Nick loved that dog and how much it would hurt to wake up to something awful like that.

“You need to go home.” Sam insisted. “You need to be with Nick.”

“I can’t, I promised AJ.”

“Yes you can. We haven’t heard anything from Ryan in a while and it’s only until tomorrow morning.”

“But he’ll be upset…”

“No, he won’t.” Sam said, cutting her off. “Nothing is going to happen. AJ will be here tomorrow morning and I will talk to him then. You really need to be with Nick right now, he needs you.”

Sam knew how much he loved Lauren and how he relied on her to help him through all the stress in his life. Lauren had been a constant, supportive presence for him and this is one of those times that he absolutely needed her to be by his side.

“But what if something happens?” Lauren asked and wiped her face. “I would hate it if…”

“Nothing is going to happen.” Sam assured her. “And, on the way off chance, something did happen, you and Nick would be my first phone call.”

Lauren didn’t need much prodding after that and she made Sam promise that if anything happened at all, she was to call them immediately. She knew she was taking a chance by leaving her friend alone by herself but Nick was a mess and she would be the only one he could count on. Hugging Sam on her way out, she made her promise once more that if anything happened, she could call and they would be there in minutes.


Finally, Ryan thought to himself as he finished his conversation with his private investigator; they had at long last left her alone, completely defenseless. He had been waiting for weeks for just one screw-up, one moment when everyone let their guard down, so that he could swoop in and grab what belonged to him! Dialing a familiar number, he barked orders as the woman on the other end listened and cringed.

After they hung up, she packed her bag and made sure she had everything. At this point, there was no going back and she knew she wouldn’t be around much longer. Everything would come to a head tomorrow and it would be too late to back out. She knew what she had to do but she just couldn’t understand why it was so impossible for him to let this go; what made his wife so special that he couldn’t see what he had now?


Sam woke up the next morning feeling as though she’d barely slept. She made it through the afternoon and evening of the day before but, when it came to going to sleep, she realized how vulnerable she really was. Sleep eventually came but it was broken every time she heard a noise, or thought she heard one.

The one thing she felt good about was that she managed to handle her nerves and her fear without running to AJ to fix it. She was proud of the fact that she made it through almost a whole twenty-four hour period being by herself and looking out for her own safety. It was going to take time but she knew that, with AJ’s help, she would be able to handle longer and longer chunks of time without a person guarding her.

She showered, changed and dragged her tired body downstairs where she put on some coffee and dropped some English muffins into the toaster. AJ would be home soon so she knew that she only had to last a few more hours by herself before she was back in the arms of the man who proved to her every day how much he loved her.

The muffins had just popped when she heard the doorbell ring; she stiffened instantly and didn’t release even the smallest breath. Someone started knocking on the door and rang the bell a few more times. Sam’s heart beat like crazy in her chest and she refused to move from the spot where she had frozen. She waited for a few minutes and, when she didn’t hear anything else, she crept slowly towards the hall that led straight to the front door. There was no shadow in the frosted glass pane and the ringing and knocking had stopped. Watching the door for a few minutes, she finally allowed herself to take a deep breath and she crept closer to the door. As she got almost to it, she noticed a manila envelope that had been slid under the door and she hesitated before picking it up. Would Ryan try and kill her with something in a package?

She shook her head to clear her thoughts and slowly picked up the envelope. Sprinting down to the kitchen, she grabbed a sharp knife and slit the envelope open. Several pictures and a letter slid out and she took a quick breath when she saw what was in that mysterious envelope.