In her bedroom after dinner, Raedyn pried off the lids of four gallon-sized paint buckets—a stash she’d found in the Tropical Lounge, leftover from the construction workers—and folded back the kitten calendar Maxine had lent her.
Time to paint something fluffy.
She threw a wary glance toward the bathroom, door ajar, shower curtain rustling gently. She’d fried every last cockroach to a crisp, but she still pictured their flat carapaces zigzagging toward her on hairy, skittering legs.
The fear lingered. It soured Raedyn’s blood, shot her full of adrenaline every time the walls creaked, had her jumping at shadows.
She had to make a change.
With a two-inch paint brush, she scooped up a globule of orange paint and smeared it on the wall, doing her best to outline the cat for June.
They were going to be here a while; she may as well decorate her bedroom wall with something cute and cuddly.
Her first attempt sucked. Like a kindergarten stick figure.
The rustling noise drew her gaze back to the bathroom, back to the shower curtain, now squeaking a little.
Something hiding behind it . . .
Her throat knotted. Relax, just the breeze from behind the medicine cabinet.
But already, fear gripped her spine. Squeaking? What made the squeaking?
Just go look.
No. She clamped her jaw and focused back on her painting, smearing a hideous stripe onto the kitten’s back—
Another squeak, a skitter, unmistakable this time. Her eyes flicked to the curtain, and a shiver snaked down her spine. More cockroaches.
What if she’d missed one? What if it reproduced and laid eggs and spread?
“Stop it, there’s nothing there . . .” She sighed, and threw down her paint brush. “So go look.”
She marched into the bathroom and reached for the edge of the curtain—and froze. She heard it better now, a scratching inside the tub, like claws scraping on porcelain. The sound made her skin crawl.
There was something behind the curtain.
She backed away, no longer breathing. The thunder of her pulse drowned out all sounds. No, you can’t run . . .
She was stuck in here, stuck in this bubble. If she ran, she’d never find out what made the noise. She’d never sleep again, she’d go crazy.
She had to face it now.
Before she chickened out, she lunged forward, seized the curtain, and yanked it to the side. The contents of the tub came into view—and she gasped.