The sky was jet-black. No stars. No moon. No light to give them away. Tyler Benson led the way to the top of the cliffs with Lilly by his side. Daniel Hunter, their best friend, lagged behind.
Lilly held on to Ty’s hand, every once in a while giving it a squeeze, showing her fear.
Otherwise Ty would think this was just another of their adventures. He knew better.
Soon, he would start the car, slam it into Drive and then jump out before it toppled off the cliff into the murky quarry waters below. Afterward, Lilly Dumont would be reported missing. Her uncle’s car would be found at the bottom of the lake. Or it wouldn’t be found at all. No body would ever be recovered. Lilly would head for New York , take the new name the three of them had chosen for her and Ty would never see her again.
All so Lilly wouldn’t have to leave the safety of Ty’s mother’s foster home and return to her bastard uncle for more abuse. She was only seventeen. She wouldn’t survive a month let alone a year if she returned to her uncle. The man didn’t love her, he loved her trust fund, Ty thought.
“Hurry up, Daniel!” Lilly called back to Hunter, breaking the silence. She was probably afraid he’d lose them in the dark.
“It’s Hunter,” their friend and foster brother muttered, loud enough for them to hear.
Ty grinned. Once Ty had told him to go by his last name, the kids at school stopped calling him
“Danny Boy” and Hunter quit trying to beat the crap out of anyone who got in his face. Hunter and Ty were like real brothers and Ty looked out for his own. Hunter did the same, which was why Hunter stayed back now, so Ty could have these last few minutes alone with Lilly.
The girl they both loved.
Hunter had never said as much, but Ty knew. He wasn’t sure Lilly did, though. She was so damn innocent despite her attitude and that was what made Ty care about her so much. They weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend but they were something.
Too bad they’d never have time to figure out just what that was.
The locket he’d bought her burned a hole in his pocket. He’d got it so she wouldn’t forget him.
Ever. His stomach cramped and he halted suddenly.
Lilly bumped into him. “What’s wrong? Why are you stopping? We aren’t there yet.”
Ty swallowed hard. “I just wanted to give you something.” He whispered, even though he knew nobody was around to hear.
Hunter, who understood what Ty had planned, waited somewhere behind them.
Ty shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled out the small gold heart. A hot flush washed over him as he held out his palm. Good thing it was dark and she couldn’t see his burning cheeks.
“Here,” he muttered. It wasn’t much and that embarrassed him as much as giving the gift.
Lilly accepted the tiny locket. Though it was hard to see, she turned it over in her hand, studying it for so long Ty shifted uncomfortably on his feet while waiting for her reaction.
“It’s beautiful,” she finally said, a catch in her voice.
He exhaled his relief. “I…..” Ty wasn’t a guy of many words and he didn’t know what to say now.
“I know.” As always, she stepped in, reading and easing his mind. She clasped the heart in one hand and threw her arms around his neck, holding him tight.
He smelled the sweet scent of shampoo in her hair and he hugged her back, pulling her soft body against his. Too many feelings and sensations rushed through him at the same time.
All the things they’d never do or get to say to each other passed between them in this one final touch.
Ty couldn’t think or even speak past the lump in his throat.
Lilly pulled back suddenly and looked down. She messed with the necklace and somehow she managed to hook the heart around her neck despite the lack of light.
“Thank you,” she said softly, meeting his gaze.
He nodded stiffly. “You’re welcome.”
Seconds of silence passed, neither one of them wanting to say the words but someone had to.
They couldn’t risk getting caught.
“We need to get moving,” Hunter said, joining them. “The longer we spend here, the more we risk being seen.”
Ty nodded. “He’s right. We have to go,” he finally said.
“Okay then, let’s do this,” Lilly said and the three friends started forward.
A few minutes later, they walked through the underbrush and came out near the cliff. A car was waiting for them just like Ty’s friend, the one who worked with him at the gas station, had promised. So was the reality of what they were about to do. He was feeling nauseous and struggled against getting sick.
“Is it really Uncle Mark’s?” Lilly asked, rubbing her hand over the dark-blue Lincoln .
Ty nodded. “A buddy of mine knows how to hot-wire cars. He owes me a favor for not turning him in to the cops, so this was no biggie.” Ty had friends in different groups, different places.
Pulling this off had been too easy.
“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Lilly said.
She stared at him, wide-eyed and afraid. But behind the fear, Ty saw her determination. She was strong and gutsy and he was really proud of her.
“It’s not like we have a choice,” Hunter reminded her.
“I know.” She nodded, her dark hair falling over her face before she tucked it behind her ear.
“You guys are the best, helping me like this.”
“One for all, all for one,” Hunter said.
Ty shook his head, trying not to laugh and embarrass his friend. Hunter always said the dumbest things, but Ty didn’t mind. Besides, he figured Hunter wasn’t thinking any clearer than he or Lilly was at the moment.
“We’re the three musketeers,” Lilly said, grinning. Just like always, she stepped in to agree with her friend and prevent him from being mortified.
Besides, she was right. So was Hunter. The three of them were alone in this and it would bind them forever. Ty stuffed his hands into his front jeans pockets.
“So tonight Lilly Dumont dies and Lacey Kinkaid is born.” Her voice quivered.
He didn’t blame her for being afraid. She was leaving Hawken’s Cove, their small upstate New York town. She’d take off for New York City alone with just the summer money Ty made working at the gas station and the petty cash Hunter picked up busing tables at the only restaurant in town.
“Nobody talks about what happened here tonight. Not ever,” Ty reminded them. They couldn’t afford for anyone to discover even a part of their plan and piece things together. “Right?” he asked, wanting to hear them say the words. His heart pounded so hard in his chest, he thought it would explode.