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I nodded, hoping that if I played nice, he would stop this and let me go.

Baptiste took a sip of his coffee. “We meet each other in every life. She’s died already. Now, she’s reborn somewhere else.” He touched his chest. “But what about me?”

I didn’t know what to say.

He continued, “I did the ceremony for her. I buried her under instructions we’ve learned throughout our different lives. She is off on her path, but what about mine?”

I parted my lips. This couldn’t be real. This couldn’t be happening. None of it made any sense. I dug deep and had to brace myself to keep from going numb— with shock, with disbelief.

Baptiste took another sip of his coffee and stared off at the beach. “I needed Hunter to kill me in a particular way. Not with a bullet, but with a knife.”

Steam rose from his coffee.

“And Hunter has to bury me correctly too. Not a casket. My bones need to touch the Earth. My flesh must touch the earth, right where Nakita’s dead body lays.” He turned to me. “And there must be tears. Hunter must be sad. He has to not only regret the death, but he has to…wish with all his heart that Nakita and I are reunited. Do you understand?”

“I do, and…I don’t.” If I was going to live through it, I had to find a way to keep Baptiste calm. At least, until Hunter arrived.

He is on his way.

“You think I’m crazy?” Baptiste narrowed his eyes. “Do you?”

My lip quivered as I shook my head. “No.”

“You do, because you’re wondering about why I began stalking you?” He leaned against the wall. “What other way could I get Hunter’s attention? And…do I really want Hunter to be left alone, after I’m gone?”

I thought about what he said, really pushing away the insanity of it all and studying the very core of his intentions.

“Hunter had to see that he loved you. He wasn’t acting on it.” Baptiste held his hands out. “Do you understand? Hunter needed a small push in the right direction, before I left. Just a small one.”

Jesus. What would a big push look like?

“So…” My pulse quickened. “Where are we now?”

“We’re in Montego Bay.”

My voice held a screech. “Jamaica?”

“Yes.”

My heart pounded like a sledgehammer. “W-what’s supposed to happen next?”

“Hunter is going to meet us tonight.”

“You told him where?”

“He’ll know. I’m sure he’s figured it out by now.” Baptiste went back to the beach and stared off at the ocean. “And then I’ll see Nakita again.”

This was not a man. This was a lost shell of a man, one that had drowned in suffering.

He’s so close, and maybe I can get him over it.

Baptiste’s reasoning was a sad and mournful romance. But still, he’d terrified me for weeks. He’d damaged my apartment, poured semen all over my bed, and shot me with red paint. Not to mention the fact I’d almost been raped by the guy he’d killed in front of me. And then I couldn’t forget the fact that he’d knocked me out and taken me to a new country.

There were other ways! We could’ve sat down and talked about this or something.

Baptiste turned to me. His gaze shifted to sadness. He was beyond lost, absent of strength and purpose. Completely empty. “Take care of Hunter while I’m gone. Don’t let him hide from your love.”

My fingers shook. “I won’t.”

Nodding, he tapped the balcony’s railing. “You should shower and get dressed. I’ve put clothes on the bed. He’ll like the color and fit. It’s red like fire. Red like the Chinese New Year. The dress will up the ante.”

I stirred in the chair.

“After tonight, it will all be over, Zola. The time has finally come.” For the first time since I realized he was my stalker, he smiled. “Everything is going exactly as planned.”

And then someone knocked on the door. Or more like slammed against it like a mad man.

Hunter?

Baptiste’s eyes widened. He dropped the cup of coffee. It crashed and splashed on the balcony floor. He took his gun out next. “Stay here.”

I won’t. I’ll just wait until you leave.

I gripped the deck chair, wondering if I could pick it up and slam it at him. Searching around wildly, I spotted a potted plant and knew it would be my weapon.

Another boom came.

I knew with all certainty that Hunter had arrived, and all of this really would be over soon.

Leaving the balcony, Baptiste pointed his gun forward, and muttered to himself, “Damn you, Hunter. You would show up early.”

35

Life is Circular

Hunter

After everything that happened, I realized that life didn’t move in smooth lines—beginning points to straight end points. Life flowed circular. Zig-zagged. Some probably lived labyrinths, their minds constantly lost in a maze.

My life was circular.

The first time I’d heard about Zola’s stalker, I’d been in Jamaica, unsure of what to do with my life and scared to face my feelings for Zola. Now, I’d returned to this mystical land in the Caribbean, certain of my desires. I loved Zola, and I would not live another day without her.