A Deadly Bet by Jen Cousineau
Publication Date: April 16, 2014
Veronica’s life was right on track. Attending University of Wisconsin – Green Bay and trying to complete her final year, she had amazing friends, was happily in love with her best friend, and was just working to make all of her dreams come true. One night changed her whole world. What was supposed to be a girl’s celebration for her friends twenty-first birthday, turned into the worst mistake of her life. Veronica makes a deadly bet that destroys everything she loves. Four years later, Veronica has a life-altering decision to make. Stay for all the loves of her past and hope for the best or plan an escape for the ultimate love of her future. If she breaks her word and leaves, can she keep her loved ones safe? Can she survive if she fails?
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I pull up to my Dad’s house and see that I’m the last to arrive. The only place to park is across the road. Great. I have to carry all the presents in, and the road and drive look as if I could ice skate on them. Perfect. I wonder if Katie and Ben will help me with them later. The shades of the great big picture window are open. As I step out of my trailblazer, the cold air bites at my face taking my breath away. I take in the view of the yellow Cape Cod with red shutters framing each of the windows, the red door with the same Christmas wreath Dad hung every year. My sister Katie and I made it when we were kids—it took us hours and it’s a hot mess—but Dad loves it. My eyes move back to the window, and it appears that they started the festivities without me. I see Lorelei, Katie’s daughter who is three, on my brother, Ben’s shoulders as she tries to hang an ornament towards the top of the tree. Instead, she drops it right onto Ben’s head, and I see my Dad’s grin spread from ear to ear as he tips his head back in laughter. Laura, my stepmom, embraces him in a hug while standing in front of the ginormous tree that my sister Katie insists on Dad getting every Christmas. Katie and my sister-in-law Sam are sitting on the couch, probably gossiping as I can see the back of their heads. My nerves of what I have to tell them dissolve as nostalgia fills me from deep within. Witnessing the happiness that they hold makes me long to go back to how everything used to be. I feel the smile spread on my face—an unusual feeling that I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I can’t help but stand there and stare. It’s a perfect moment. The last perfect moment before I ruin everyone’s Christmas and strip away their securities. Maybe I’ll wait until after our holiday celebration to tell them. Feeling relieved about my last minute decision, I start walking across the street. Everything changes to yellows and oranges in a flash. The heat on my face feels to be melting my skin. Before I realize what’s happening, something hits me on my head, knocking me to the ice cold ground. What the hell? I hear a hiss and a loud, high-pitched wale of a scream. That’s when I realize the hiss is a fire that stands where my father’s house stood only moments ago. The scream is coming from me. The perfect moment is gone. Oh, shit. What the hell have I done?