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By: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff


“Uncle, there’s a call for you.” Pulling me from my thoughts, Luke shoved my cell into my hand. “You might want to take it.”

“I do not wish to speak with anyone.”

“It’s Stephanie’s father. He says she’s been taken.”

Unsure if my aging ears had heard correctly, I simply stared. “What do you mean, taken?”

Luke shook the phone at me. “Take it. Hurry, dammit.”

I slowly opened my wrinkled, trembling hand and placed the phone to my ear. “Hello.”

“Rook, it’s Grant Fitzgerald.” His voice cracked with emotion. “A man has taken Stephanie.”

“What man?” I muttered.

“His name is Warner Price. I’ve done some research, and he’s the real deal—linked to human trafficking, drugs, murder. He’s been arrested four times, but the charges never stuck.”

This makes no sense. “Why would he want Stephanie?” My breath came out ragged and weak. I could feel a throbbing ache in my heart as it tried to beat faster but simply couldn’t.

“He says he loaned her some money—one hundred thousand dollars, which she never paid back. Now he wants five million. Five. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who else to ask.”

One hundred thousand. The exact amount of money she paid to come to my island as a guest. I’d already requested the funds be returned to her, but what did that matter? I’d overlooked something I shouldn’t have. I’d never asked where she got the money in the first place.

The pain in my heart went from a throbbing ache to sharp jabs. Am I having a heart attack? Fuck. I think I am. My body was giving out.

I handed the phone to Luke. “Call Dr. Rosy, and get Stephanie’s father on a plane here. Immediately.”

“Are you okay?” Luke asked.

I winced. “No. And just in case I’m dead before he arrives, he’s going to need five million dollars to take back with him.”

“What?”

“Stephanie has made a very big mistake, and we must fix it.”



“I’m sorry, Mr. Rook, there’s little I can do for you other than prescribe painkillers and blood thinners. Your heart is on its last leg.” Dr. Rosy shoved her stethoscope into her bag. “You have a day at most; a few hours at worst.”

I needed to hang on long enough to ensure Stephanie was safe.

She added, “Are you certain you do not want to rethink your—”

“No. I am not going to retake my fucking vows,” I grumbled. “No one else will die in that lagoon.”

She let out a sigh. “I understand. I truly do. We’ve all been given so much as it is, and I’m not alone when I say that I feel guilty for the extra time we’ve had. I mean, I swam once and still have plenty of years before time catches up.” She shook her head at the floor. “But it’s not enough, and I think it never will be.” Dr. Rosy, a portly woman in her late sixties, with dark olive skin and bottle-cap glasses, was one hundred and five, just ten years older than Luke.

“It is a shame that we don’t value life until it’s being taken from us,” I said, speaking from the heart.

“So true.”

“All I ask is that you help me live a few more days—long enough to know that Stephanie is free.”

Dr. Rosy nodded. “I will do everything in my power, sir.”

“Thank you,” I sputtered.

“No. Thank you. It’s been a true pleasure serving you and this island. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my life would mean so much.”

I hesitated to respond, unwilling to burst her bubble. Our lives meant nothing. We’d accomplished nothing. The world was just as doomed now as the day I’d been born.

“Call me if you need anything,” she added.

“Rook?” Luke appeared in the doorway. “Stephanie’s father will be landing in forty minutes.”

“So fast?” I said.

“You’ve been asleep for hours while Dr. Rosy monitored you.”

I then noticed it was daylight outside again. “Oh.”

“Shall I get your suit?” he asked.

“No. I do not have the strength to dress.” I coughed hard, feeling tissue and blood push up from my lungs. “Make sure he comes straight here. I do not have time to lose.”

Luke narrowed his eyes. I knew he wanted to say something—scream, shake me, roar with his demands—but he held back. He understood there was nothing he could say to convince me to kill one more person in the name of our longevity.

“Well?” I griped.

“Of course, Uncle.” He dipped his head. “Whatever you need.”

“What I need is your loyalty. What I need is your promise to help Stephanie and to make arrangements for her after I am gone.”

“Of course.”

It felt as though only a moment had passed before Grant Fitzgerald was standing at my bedside. His hair was white like mine, and his brown eyes reminded me of Stephanie’s—so much turmoil behind them.

“Who’s this?” Grant asked. “I said I needed to talk to Mr. Rook.”

“You’re looking at ’im,” Luke said with a nod in my direction.

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