It’s half buried in the dirt, but I uncover it easily. As soon as I do, I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d taken Nate’s hand and run while we had the chance.
“No,” he whispers, reaching for the small, silver locket in my hand. Beneath his touch, it separates leaving us each with half a heart and the beginning of the curse in our hands.
“It’s nothing. Just an old locket,” Nate says between deep inhales. He knows it not nothing just as well as I do.
“So this is how it works? For over a hundred years some boy just came up here trying to stop some girl and they both found this?” The light catches the locket as I hold my half in front of our faces. “That seems impossible.”
“Because it is impossible. C’mon. Let’s just—let’s go.” The fear is evident in Nate’s voice and it takes him back a step to that small awkward boy wheezing up the hill. “We can still go home, Cami.”
“No. We can’t.” I can't. What am I going home to? An entire town of people, including my parents, who will resent me for the rest of my life because I didn’t go over the cliff and stop it all? This is it. It has to end with me.
“Why not?” Nate keeps glancing over his shoulder at the tree line. A shadow moves in the dark—a bird probably, unless someone else has come to watch the show.
I close my eyes and wait for the pull of it, the invisible thread that will draw me to the edge of the bluff and send me sailing to the Red River below, but there’s nothing. Just the heat of the morning sun on my eyelids. “I don’t understand?”
Nate wraps his arms around himself, shivering. “Please, Cami. It doesn’t have to happen this way. You don’t have to be their sacrifice.” He waves his arm back behind him toward the tress, or the town below. “Please.”
Shadows darken Nate’s eyes and create creases around his mouth that I hadn’t noticed before. Memories from all the years we’ve known each other crash together like the waves down below us. How could I have had Nate all this time and not known it? Not cared? Is this how Cami felt about Jed? Is this why there love was so secret, because even she didn’t know?
I lean into him and tuck my face into the bend of his neck. “What were you going to say before?”
“Before you reminded me of who I used to be.”
Nate pulls back to peer at me behind the thin red curtain of his hair. “I was going to say—” He searches my face.
“Please,” I whisper, brushing the hair out of his eyes. “I really need to know.”
Nate laughs. “What the heck, it is Valentine’s, right? I was going to say that…that I love you, Cami. I’ve always loved you.”
As soon as the words leave his lips an icy chill runs through me. It’s the confirmation I need. I snatch the locket out of Nate’s hand as I pull away from his warm arms and back toward the edge of the bluff.
Love. Love is what brought this curse to the perfect town of Hart’s Ridge. The curse that has to end before it takes another life. Before it takes Nate.
My feet keep shuffling my body backward. My mind is reeling, spinning with all the things I can’t make my mouth say. It’s better if I don’t say anything to him now.
If I choose to jump, rather than wait for the possession of the curse, will that end it?
“Cami, what are you doing?” His eyes flash between me and the woods.
I shake my head no, tears prick my eyes. Why did he have to say that? I can’t stop thinking that maybe I love him too. It makes it that much harder, but convinces me that I have to do this.
“Please, Cami.” He’s not pleading with his words, but with his eyes, like he’s trying hard to convey some secret message. Whatever it is it doesn’t matter.
I reach the edge and pause just long enough to whisper, “I’m sorry,” and watch Nate’s eyes grow wide and scared as he lunges for me, screaming my name.
Like the pebbles I’d tossed so carelessly, I sail down over the cliff. My fingers fold tight around the locket, knowing in my heart that I had no choice. I had to do it to save him. I saved Nate, and I saved the town. The curse of Hart’s Ridge ends with me, Camilla Hart. A sad smile crosses my lips and just as I know my head will hit the water of the blood-red river, somewhere above me I hear the crack of a gun.
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