The Beautiful Thief

By: Mallory Crowe

The ringing doorbell caused Melody’s eyes to snap open. Just as quickly, she closed them again and rolled over. The thundering footsteps above her told her that the entire household had been disturbed by the newcomer, but she was in no hurry to investigate. Instead, she pushed her head into the pillow and willed herself into unconsciousness.

Right as she thought sleep was going to overtake her again, soft footsteps coming down the stairs to the basement Melody was currently renting told her that sleep wasn’t coming anytime soon.

Even so, she didn’t move until the person stopped right at the edge of the bed and whispered, “Melody?”

It was Whitney. Her ever considerate and patient hostess. Even though all she wanted to do was ignore the woman, she knew Whitney would leave faster if she responded, so she rolled over. “What’s up?” she asked in a groggy voice.

“Obviously not you,” said someone who very obviously wasn’t Whitney.

Melody jerked her gaze to the staircase. Toni leaned over the rail halfway down and looked judgmentally at her. All of a sudden, Melody was one hundred percent awake and immediately aware that her two lives were all too close to colliding.

“I thought I asked you to wait upstairs,” said Whitney in an almost firm voice.

Good for you, thought Melody. Even though she wanted her friend to be able to stand up for herself, Toni was probably the worst person to practice on.

“And I thought I told you that I wanted to see my sister.” Toni continued down the rest of the stairs, just one more way to prove that she wasn’t planning to go anywhere. She was dressed comfortably in some yoga pants and a pink t-shirt. Even though the clothes were made for lounging, they were tight on her fit body. A stark contrast to Melody’s ill-fitting mishmash of clothes she’d grabbed out of her closet hastily after the divorce.

“It’s fine.” Melody stood hastily and ran a hand through her reddish-brown hair, knowing no amount of finger brushing would make her look put together at the moment.

“It’s not fine. I know you well enough to know you don’t have a sister,” said Whitney.

Toni tilted her head and narrowed her eyes, her judgment coming off in waves from across the room.

“I do have a sister,” admitted Melody. “Just not one I talk to.”

“Oh,” said Whitney. Her first glimpse of just how much Melody wasn’t telling her.

She could get this over much quicker if she wasn’t edging around the truth while Whitney was around. “Can you give us a few minutes? I’m sorry for any confusion.”

“Okay,” said Whitney tentatively. “Let me know if you need anything.”

Toni stepped out of the way as Whitney went upstairs. Toni and Melody remained completely quiet until the footsteps above them signaled that she was well out of earshot. “What the hell are you doing here?” Melody finally snapped.

Melody fell back onto the bed and refused to offer her sister anything to make her more comfortable. If she wanted to show up unannounced and start causing trouble, Melody didn’t see any reason to make her stay any easier.

“I’m here because I need a place to sleep.” Melody tucked her feet under the covers and fell back against the pillow. As far as basements went, this one was pretty nice. It was never meant to be an apartment. There was no kitchen space or eating space, and the couch had holes big enough to swallow an entire cell phone. But it had a twin-sized bed against the far wall and a bathroom, and that was good enough for her.

“I know you need a place to sleep, but why here? You can afford your own house. Hell, you could afford dozens of houses after what we did to Stranger.”

Melody shifted at the reminder of the last time she’d seen her sister. Was that really only two weeks ago? Time didn’t seem to move right ever since she’d seen— Ever since that night.

The money had been a benefit she wasn’t expecting. After what had gone down, Toni had been especially unforgiving and had used her overwhelming hacking knowledge to go after what Greg Stranger valued most: his money.

Well, not his money, which was so protected even Toni wouldn’t be able to get to it. But the money of every single one of Stranger’s clients. Considering Stranger’s clients consisted of some of the most prolific criminals on the planet, his days were numbered—if he wasn’t dead already.

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