Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 2
Title: Miss Me, -Kait
Another set of hands touched Kait, ripped the breath from my lungs.
Did you find it?
Not yet, no. It’s around here, somewhere. I’ll ask Hannah.
You already talked to Hannah. Enough of the games, Kait.
Kait’s panicked eyes begged for help, but Chad missed the message, too busy trying to follow the strange conversation. I got glimpses of the mystery man, felt enough of his emotions to know him as the man I’d sensed before. His face wouldn’t come clear, but he seemed familiar.
Kait let go of Chad and ran off. I lost the thread, returning to the here and now in a rush. Clamping down on the flood of emotion leaking from Chad, I jerked away, jumping to my feet.
“I know him.” I pressed the heels of my hands against my eyes. C’mon, c’mon. Show yourself. His face stayed stubbornly vague and with a growl I turned on Chad. “Or I’ve seen him somewhere before.”
Chad stared at me like I’d grown a second head.
“Who is he?” I demanded. “Who is the man with Kait?”
His eyes popped wide. “I can’t say.”
“No. You won’t say. Big difference. Damn it, Chad,” I ground out. “Who is he and what did he want from Kait?”
“You said you know him.”
“He’s familiar, but I can’t see him clearly.”
Chad’s eyes slid to the girl—Hannah—still talking to Murray.
“We can’t say. Please. We’ve already lost Kait. Don’t give him a reason to come after us.”
“This is the real world, kid. You tell us who the bad guy is and we go get him.”
“Not him.” Chad shook his head. “You can’t take him down. No one can.”
I grabbed Chad by his shirt front and yanked him to his feet.
“You wanted to stand up for her, remember?”
“Yeah, of course—”
“Well, here’s your chance.”
I gave him two seconds. Urgency had me by the throat. When he didn’t answer, I ran for Hannah, grabbing her hand.
“Riley, what the hell?”
Hannah tried to yank away, but saw something in my face and stopped.
“Tell me about the man, Hannah. The one who came for Kait. Tell me what Kait was looking for.”
“Lady, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but you are seriously creeping me out.”
Hannah, you know my little zip drive? The purple one you gave me after my computer crashed?
Yeah, of course.
I just wanted to thank you again. It was a great gift.
Hannah laughed. Kaitie, you’re so weird sometimes.
Kait smiled. I know.
Are you staying now that your…friend is here?
No. I have to go.
Kait looked directly at me. She mouthed something, but I couldn’t hear her. The party scene shifted and changed. Sun and sky vanished. Cold rain snuck beneath my collar and I shivered. The scent of wet earth filled my nose as my eyes adjusted to murky light coming from above. I looked up, blinking away the drops of water. Maybe twenty, thirty feet above, a metal grate let in the stormy gloom. The wan light illuminated a slim shaft in the ground, barely wide enough to fit us both.
“Kait, where are we?”
I felt stuck in a trap slowly closing in around me. Kait’s sad eyes spoke of resignation.
“Are you alive?”
Yes. Again, she only mouthed the word. I could see in her face she had no hope of getting out. She’d been missing since Friday and now it was Monday, so she’d spent as much as two and a half days already in this place.
“You spoke before. Why can’t I hear you now?” I reached for her, but couldn’t touch her. My hands passed through her shoulders. “Damn it. Where are we?”
Kait shifted her feet. Sloshing water drew my eyes down. Just a few inches deep, but on seeing it I felt it sink through my shoes, so cold my feet ached.
“A well?” My heart fluttered like a caged bird inside my ribs. “Why? What the hell is this about?”
Who could do this to her? And who could Chad believe had the power to snatch a girl out from under her friends and family with apparent immunity from punishment? I felt it from Hannah, the certainty something had happened to Kait. In her thoughts, a name slipped through.
“Riley.” Strong fingers clamped around my arm, drew me out of memories and into Murray’s furious eyes. “Snap out of it.”
I touched my face, wiggled my toes. Warm and a bit sweaty. The cold reached down to my bones though, drawing goosebumps all along my skin. Rationality shorted out and I yanked free.
“Do not touch me again,” I said.
“I could say the same to you, you crazy bitch,” Hannah yelled.
“You shut the hell up.” I put my finger in her face. “Until you’re ready to tell me the truth, to tell me about him, your affronted innocence is straight bullshit.”
Hannah’s mouth snapped shut.
Murray had his hands on me again, trying to draw me away. I swatted him away.
“Get off me, damn it.”
“You didn’t hear the sounds you made,” he said. “Almost like conversation, but I couldn’t make out anything you said. Jesus Christ, woman, stop.”
I almost said his name out loud. I opened my mouth, did an impression of a fish out of water.
He took the time my silence afforded and brought his hands to my face. He leaned in until our foreheads touched, lifting just long enough to brush his mouth across mine.
“No.” I turned my head away and pulled free. “Don’t do this. Please. I can’t take your regret on top of everything else right now.”
“Regret?” Murray reached out, quick as a snake, and snatched me up against him. “You think I regret kissing you before?”
“I’m sorry?” I reminded him. “Hell, I can’t blame you. Who wants inside my head?”
“I’m sorry for the timing,” he said. His hard gaze dropped to my lips, damp from my nervous tongue. “Absolutely nothing else. Are we clear?”
“Be sure, Adam,” I said. “This is about to get really ugly.”
“Whatever’s happening here,” he murmured, “We need each other. We can’t win this, for Kait or us, if we’re fighting each other.”
I thought of Kait, alone and fading.
“Let me in, Riley. Let me see.”
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.