Prologue

A young brunette pushed through the front doors, but the smile on her face disappeared the moment she looked in. The house was dark, too dark. Taking a step forward, she turned on the entrance corridor lights. An uneasy feeling tugged at her stomach as she paused and scanned the room. In the dusty golden glow of the lights, something seemed out of place in the dining room, the first room visible from the front doors. Sitting squarely on the dinner table was a neatly wrapped, salmon-colored present box.

"Mom? Dad?" she called out. No answer.

The last time she had seen her mom and step-dad was three weeks ago at her high school graduation. They went on business trips often, but, this didn't feel right.

The girl inched toward the table, heart thumping fast. Scribbled on the top of the box was her name. Slowly, she undid the satin ribbons. They slid from her fingers as she removed the lid. A small note sat atop some satin fabric. In fancy script it read,

Happy 18th birthday, baby girl. Hope you like pearls and roses. Picked the best of each for you.

The note was signed with an unfamiliar shield emblem.

"What?" she blurted, her breaths shortening.

Underneath the note and fabric sat a pair of pistols, snug in their velvet molds, one silver and one rose-gold. A tickling shiver crawled up her spine as she ran her fingers across the silver one. Engraved on the slide was the word "Pearl."

She started as the front doors clicked behind her.

"Rila, what are you doing here?" the voice behind her uttered.

Rila twirled around to face her step-brother. "It's not from mom and dad," she said a little too softly.

Her brother shook his head and looked somewhat surprised to see the box. After reading the note, he asked in a solemn tone, "Do you understand what this means?"

A line of confusion creased her brow. "Am I supposed to?"

He sighed and ran a hand through his dirty blonde hair, "It means they know you're still alive."


A/N: Please let me know what you think so far! I would really appreciate your comments.