"Only 72 hours. No more. If you can't save them by then, they die." Click.

Those accursed words sealed my fate for the next 3 days. With a gun pointed to my little brother's head, all I could do is cry as he slammed our phone on the hook.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start over. To where my life became a living hell.

24 hours earlier

My name? Kouri Shanelle Johnson. I'm 17 years old and hate my life. Sort of. Ok, I don't hate my life…. But it can be better. I'm 5'7 (and some change) with brownish black hair that stops underneath my shoulder blades. I've been told that I have a nice body shape, but I don't think I'm that attractive since I've been dateless for the last YEAR. NOTE UNHAPPINESS. But I'm getting off subject.

My alarm clock started blaring about 6 a.m. It hit my wall 30 seconds after. Dragging myself out of bed, I take a quick shower and start getting ready for the first day of school. I pull back my hair into a high ponytail with a hump and find some tight jeans with a violet zip-up hoodie to go with it. I slip on my shoes, head out to my '08 Ford Focus (very nice), and head down to school.

I stop by my locker before heading to my first class, Language. Ah, my favorite class! I smile when I see my best friend, Michaela. She squeals when she sees me and her long Italian hair flops from side to side as she runs to hug me. Only standing at 5'4, Michaela has a nice tan with slanted hazel eyes. Guys constantly fight over her year after year, yet she never lets it get to her. She's been there for me, thick and thin through the years, and I love her for it.

"Kouri!" She squeals again and hugs me. "I haven't seen you all summer! How have you been?" She batted her long black eyelashes at me, making me laugh.

"Ahh, you know," I scratched the back of my neck, " Just doing what I do best I guess… oh! I did get a new car." That got her interest.

"Oooooooh, so your dad got that new promotion, huh?" I nodded. My dad works as an executive at some important technology company. For a year, he's been trying to get this higher rank, which he finally got, that gave him a new title, office, and salary. "Cool! What kind?"


"You KNOW we gotta go riding together! I can show you this new shoe store I found!" We giggled like little kids. If loving shoes were a crime, Michaela would be the first in jail. She started to say something else, but the late bell rang and school officially started.

The day seemed to fly by as History, Calculus, and Physics ended as quickly as they came. Art was my last class and I wondered who was in it this year. I took a left turn and ran right into my archenemy, Nick Tripoli. Standing at 6'2 with the whole "slim-yet-muscular" physique, he's full of hot air, arrogance and a lot of bull. Did I mention arrogance? Anyway, we've been at each other's throats since the 7th grade, competing to best the other in anything and everything. He was the school's heartthrob the second he walked on campus in 9th grade. I used to gag as girls cooed and drooled over him, but I had to admit he was pretty hot S I did NOT just admit that /S. My books dropped out of my hand as I glared at him for running into me.

"Watch where you're going, loser." I snarled.

"Can't help it if I'm surrounded by idiots who look down as they walk around corners." Electricity shot between our eyes as we glared at each other until the late bell rang. He scoffed at me.

"Now look what you did, Johnson!" He's always called me by my last name. And I've always hated it. "Now I'm late for Art!"

Great. Now I have to share my second favorite class with my least favorite person. I like spiders more than I like him…. We fought our way to the art door (I won) and both got detention for the next week. I was pissed at him for the rest of the period, but forgot about it when I started painting. Did I mention that art was my passion? When I'm mad, upset, or stressed, I pull out my sketchpad and start drawing. Michaela tells me I should enter my art in the school's art fair each year but I decline each time. I'm not EM that /EM good… By the time the class was over, I had a very detailed picture of the big maple tree in front of our school. Nick was long gone, so I just packed up my stuff and started heading for home. Something told me to take my time, but knowing how mom loves for me to cook dinner when I get home so I only stopped by Starbucks for a little coffee.

How I wish I had listened to myself…

The bells above the door rang as I walked into Starbucks. I breathed in the strong, yet soothing smell of coffee in the making, smiling as I walked toward the counter. But that smile didn't last when I realized who worked as cashier.

"Welcome to Starbucks, may I… oh. Johnson." That stupid sneer crossed over Nick's face. "Coming to spend more time with me?"

"Just give me a cappuccino dog-breath." His smirk disappeared and he turned to fix my drink. "So when did you start working here? Are you trying to poison my favorite drink now?" His Ssmooth/S annoying laugh made me cringe.

"As if. If I wanted to poison you, I would've done it at school. Here's your cappuccino. That'll be 4.79" I gave him a five, but he took his time giving me my change back. "Can I have my change back now?" I asked in a huff. He leaned on the counter, his brown hair falling in his face. It was sexy, in a "try and make me" kind of way.

Rolling my eyes, I snatched my changed out of his hands and marched to my car. I was about to pull off when Nick busted through Starbucks door and flagged me down. My purse was in his hands. He came to give me my purse? IN ONE PIECE?! (7th: he stole my purse and tried to shove it in the teacher's shredder. It wasn't completely shredded, but I still lost my favorite purse)

He came up to my window, panting. "You left this on the counter. I tried to tell you when you were walking out, but you ignored me." I raised an eyebrow. "You're… giving it to me? As a nice gesture?" He just stood there, running a hand through his hands. Wait, is he blushing? But then that stupid sneer came back.

"Most girls say thank you when a guy does a good deed for them." Snarling, I snatched my purse out of his hands.

"I'm not most girls, loser." I drive off without another word, leaving Nick in a cloud of dust. "That you are Johnson, that you are." With a sigh, he walked back into Starbucks.

I race home, realizing how late I was and how pissed my mom was going to be. Grabbing my things, I quickly unlocked the door, bracing myself for my mom's harsh words. But they never came.

"Hello?" I slowly walked around the living room, seeing no one. "Mom? Dorren?" Normally my mom and brother are home by now… where can they be? I flipped on the light in the kitchen, wishing I hadn't the second I did. Pots and pans were scattered all over the counters and floor, as if there had been a big fight. My eyes flickered to the back door. No sign of a forced entry...? But how- Suddenly, a feeling of pure dread and terror shot through my entire body. I whirl around to face a gun resting lightly on my forehead. A man clad in full black held the gun, smirking.

"Welcome home…Kouri."