Extraordinary World (Extraordinary Series Book 3)

By: Mary Frame

Chapter One

“Paige?” I’m frozen in the doorway to Jared’s house.

She’s here. But she’s not supposed to be here, she’s supposed to be at the rendezvous point. My brain stutters to a stop, failing to work through the implications, but my wicked, traitorous eyes keep going, taking in every detail and presenting the scene to me with malicious glee.

Illuminated by the porch lights, she’s standing at the bottom of the short flight of steps that leads to the gravel drive. She’s still in the new dress she wore to the dance. Her eyes are red and mascara streaks down her face like charcoal tears.

And she’s not alone.

“You can have her back as soon as you fix our little problem.” Red-tipped nails grip Paige’s shoulder like talons. It’s a voice I recognize. A voice I’ve gone to great pains to never hear again.

Shock pulses through me.

They’re here.

At Jared’s.

He’s sleeping peacefully less than a hundred feet away.

And the parents, the people I’ve been running from for months, have found me. And they have Paige.

“You see,” Mother says, “you stole a bit of money from us, and now you’re going to pay it back. With interest.”

That’s why they’re here? Money? What we took was a mere trifle to them, a two-bit con.

My brain struggles to process the scene in front of me.

Mother looks the same as always: hair pulled back into a neat chignon, white blouse and dark pencil skirt perfectly pressed, face smoothed with Botox, and a slight smile that masquerades as friendly and unassuming and in reality is anything but. She could be a secretary for the CEO of a million-dollar company, or a wealthy heiress dressed to volunteer at a benefit gala.

But appearances are deceiving. She’s none of those things. And she’s standing in front of me with everything I hold dear in the palms of her hands.

I have to get Paige away from her. Nothing else matters.

I glance behind Mother and into the darkness.

Where’s Father?

There’s a car parked behind the station wagon, a new-model black Mercedes, its interior dark as midnight. It’s running with its lights on, and I have to assume Father is watching everything unfold.

What do I do? Maybe if I just agree . . . I shut the front door to Jared’s house behind me so our voices won’t filter inside and wake him up. I step closer, stopping at the top of the stairs. “Fine. I’ll pay you back. We took, what, three thousand dollars? I’ll give you six grand if you give me Paige and leave us alone.”

She laughs.

It’s not a happy laugh. It’s more of a Cruella De Vil, “I want to kill your puppies” kind of cackle.

I grit my teeth.

“That’s not what I’m talking about, but then you have always been on the slow side. You were supposed to seduce Wallace, and you left before we could finish the con. I think he was worth quite a bit more than what you took from us.”

The voice I remember so well, laced with condescension, makes my jaw clench.

I had almost forgotten how much I hate it. It’s worse than nails on a chalkboard. It’s more like metal on a cheese grater.

“What do you want me to do?”

“It’s quite simple. We don’t have time for a long con, but since you’re so cozy with the locals, you can help us. All you have to do is introduce us to the new friends you’ve made here. Tell them we’re your aunt and uncle, the only family you have left. If you trust us, so will they. You can start with your little boyfriend here.” Her eyes flick behind me, taking in the large house.

A con in Castle Cove? On Jared?

My heart thumps a death knell in my chest. I mean, really, it’s what I’ve been doing already but . . . what exactly are they planning?

It doesn’t matter. I have to get Paige away from her. For that, I’ll promise anything and deal with the consequences later.

My eyes flick from Paige’s tear-streaked face to Mother’s narrowed eyes.

“You have a problem with that?”

“Not if you let go of Paige. And she gets to stay with me while we run the con.”

I know I’ve overstepped when she laughs again, the sound louder and even more grating than before. “Why, exactly, would we do that? If you have Paige, what’s to keep you from running away again? We need collateral.”

And now I argue for my life. “If you take Paige now, I have no reason to help you. I won’t work with you or do anything you say unless she’s with me. And as you’ve said, you’ll need me if you’re going to con this town.”

She pauses, which I hope is a good sign. “That’s how you’ll treat us, after we’ve been helping you this whole time?”

“What do you mean, helping me this whole time?” Even as the words leave my mouth, my stomach sinks with suspicion.

“Who do you think got you your most recent job with the PD? If it weren’t for us staging a little B and E at your place, you wouldn’t have gotten so close to your little boyfriend.” She smirks. “Something you seem to be taking full advantage of.”

“So it was you who broke into Ruby’s.” I make it a statement, knowing she won’t answer a question. The rose was too much of a coincidence, so I already knew they were involved somehow. Plus, Ruby’s was the only place that didn’t fit. It wasn’t in line with the senior center and the bluffs, and Miss Viola didn’t have keys for it. Thankfully, no one else has pieced that together. But why would the parents do it in the first place? And how did they know to stage it to match the other incidents around town?