Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1
Title: Miss Me, -Kait
Something nudged me, urging me—what? Awake? I didn’t remember falling asleep. What did I remember?
A distant haze of pain became… not so distant. Fuck-ing hell, I hurt. Everywhere. Dull aches, sharp pains, and everything in between. I bit down on my lip to keep from screaming like a girl as whatever I laid on bounced me to somewhere between the stratosphere and mesosphere. Something immovable above me rebounded me back to solid ground. How kind. Another jolt—and the powerful scent of gasoline—shook my brain clear enough to realize I’d been stuffed into the already crowded trunk of a car, and my chauffeur didn’t much care about the comfort of his passenger.
Be there, damn you. Be alive. Hear me.
“Riley?” My hands clawed around. “Where are you, babe?”
Lightning ignited in my shoulder. I covered the pain in self-defense, found the blood soaking my shirt.
Right. I’d been shot. At the well. I’d been pulling Kait out and then—”
“Riley? Riley!” Panicked, I fumbled around the trunk. “Okay, okay. Calm the fuck down, Murray.”
If the car was newer, there’d be a release. If not, I could kick my way out the backseat, or jack up the lid until it popped. There were half a dozen ways out of here. I just had to breathe easy and find one.
And not pass out from blood loss.
Adam, can you hear me?
“Yeah, babe,” I muttered. “I sure as hell can hear you.”
“Riley, you brilliant, beautiful woman.” I switched my voice for thoughts. I hear you. I’m still here, babe.
Oh, my God. Adam?
How am I talking to you? You’re not here. We’re not connected.
Your wallet. Her words softened, almost lost beneath the noise of the car. I have it.
I shifted around until I could reach my back pocket. Empty. I’d never been so damn happy about losing something.
Don’t be dead, Riley said. Please don’t be dead.
Alive and kicking. Finding my way out in the dark, with a less than smooth ride to steady me, proved easier said than done, though. For now, anyway.
Where are you?
Trunk of a car. Can’t give you much more, sorry.
She didn’t say anything and I thought she’d gone. Then I realized she sat at the bottom of a well. With my wallet, and less able to help me than just about anyone, including Santa Claus. So maybe it didn’t matter if I lost her.
Riley? Don’t abandon me, babe. “I need you,” I said under my breath. Tell me you’re okay.
I’m still in one piece, she said. A bit worse for wear.
I know the feeling.
Touch the car, Murray.
I think… maybe I can find the car through you.
You’re in a well, Riley.
Chad and Hannah came to my rescue. Some of the kids were on your tail, too, but they stopped when Carson’s goon squad dumped Kait’s body. There’s a BOLO on the vehicle, but I’d feel a lot better finding you now, not later. So do me a favor and put your damn hand on the car.
“Okay, okay.” I didn’t know where to touch, so I put one palm down on the floorboard and one on the lid above me. Now what?
Shut your brain off for a minute and let me see what’s around you.
That’s some kind of meditation bullshit, right? I suck at meditating.
I took a deep breath and tried to still my thoughts. I absorbed every jolt, listened to the hum of the engine and the spin of the wheels. The brakes whined in soft protest as the car slowed. I braced automatically as we turned.
Got you. Riley’s satisfaction purred through me.
What are we, the fucking Wonder Twins?
Haha, funny man. That would be real amusing except for the part where I spent I don’t even know how long sitting in cold water and believing I’d die there.
I thought back to the goofy cartoon heroes of my childhood. The boy had always taken some kind of water form. Still, the idea didn’t feel so wild. Just talking to Riley in my head had calmed me down. I didn’t even hurt as much.
In short, I felt more like myself.
Calm, cool Detective Murray. A man who could sure as shit get out of the trunk of a car.
Not yet. You’re moving too fast.
You know what I’m about to do?
You think loudly. I could almost see her shrug in the tone of her words. Get ready to pop the lid. I’ll tell you when to bail.
You got it, psychic guru.
Her mental snort made me smile. With steady hands, I found the cable connecting to the remote release inside the car and gripped it. The second I popped it, a dash light would tell the driver the trunk was open, so we had to be quick. Maybe he wouldn’t notice right off, and maybe he would. I felt the car slowing, heard the breaks protest once again.
Now. Go now, Adam. Hurry.
The lock popped with a soft thunk and I lifted the lid just enough to spill myself out onto the uneven ground. No one behind me to see… or help. Woods all around and little more than a dirt track beneath my feet.
In a crouch, I held the trunk closed. The car began to roll and I followed until I couldn’t keep up. I dove for the overgrown side of the path, watching the busted trunk lid bobbing as the car moved off. Keeping low, I moved deeper into the brush. With the bumpy trail, it wouldn’t be long before the lid opened wide and revealed my escape. It might be even sooner that the driver noticed the dash indicator. I needed to put as much distance between us as possible.
The throatier rumble of a truck engine approached and I ducked down. A red pickup geared for Florida’s swampy off road conditions slowed to a stop. The passenger door opened and a muddy, bloodied woman tumbled out, barely keeping her feet. She heavily favored her left leg. I couldn’t make out her features, but her face pointed right at me through all the trees, right at me.
“Riley.” I bolted up, stumbling back to the trail. “You found me.”
“Always,” she said, her voice thick and strained.
And I found my way into her embrace, and damn nothing had ever felt so good. I might have to work hard to ever let her go again. Broken and battered as we were, I felt stronger, better, more myself, just for being with her. Her arms wrapped around my neck and I held her close, eyes squeezed tight at the feel of her breath and tears hot against my skin.
“I was so afraid I wouldn’t find you in time,” she whispered.
“Of course you found me,” I said. “You’re my goddamned hero, babe.”
“Don’t you forget it.” She leaned back, somehow finding a smile. Reaching down, she drew a plastic bag out of her pocket. Inside, a portable drive sat, cozy and dry. “Now let’s go be Kait’s heroes.”
I pressed a quick, fierce kiss to her lips.
“Remind me to tell you how much I love you when this is all done.”
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.