Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? Part Twenty-two
As the headlights drew closer, the rumble of the engine made it apparent the vehicle was accelerating. Ciel closed her eyes and prayed it was the police.
“We have to get out of here now!” Melinda's voice held an edge of desperation to go with her usual helping of crazy.
“No! I'm not leaving Ciel here!”
“Oh, shit.” Melinda's latest expulsion was one of defeat.
Ciel didn't dare turn over but could swear the drone of another engine was headed their way from the opposite direction. If she hadn't felt like Beauty had thrown her down and stomped on her, she'd have jumped up and done a fist-pump.
A struggle ensued behind her, along with muffled cursing, and then Janice's concerned face floated before Ciel, blocking her view of the road. “Ciel? Are you all right?” Janice's eyes were owlish and haunted, the sockets sunken—a testament to how much weight the already thin girl had lost.
“I—I don't know. It hurts everywhere . . .” Ciel's voice was a raspy whisper.
Janice swept the hair back from Ciel's forehead. “You'll be okay. I promise.” Her eyes shifted to look past Ciel and she gasped, her movements stilling.
“What . . . is it?”
The roar of the vehicle behind Ciel gave way to squealing tires and the patter of dirt raining through the air as the car spun out. The other car was still coming.
“Paul!” Melinda cried out.
Ciel gazed up at Janice's shocked face, then made a monumental effort to turn over. Ciel landed on her back and screamed as rockets of pain shot off like roman candles everywhere at once. She managed to turn her head and watched with equal parts horror and fascination as Paul Jeffries emerged from the passenger side of his SUV. Detective Hoffstra appeared on the driver's side, keeping the door between himself and Melinda, eyes narrowed.
Paul Jeffries had bruise-like shadows beneath his eyes, the dark waves of his hair in disarray, and his clothes were rumpled as if he'd slept in them. He raked a hand through his hair, his gaze shifting from Melinda to Janice and back again. He tilted his head back and let out an agonized groan.
Melinda slung her free arm across her middle as if holding herself together, the gun dangling from the other hand and pointed at the ground.
The other car arrived, and a well-built man in a plaid shirt and jeans leaped out. He didn't attempt to conceal the gun in his hand but pointed it at Melinda. “Drop your weapon!”
Melinda glared at him full-on, and he never even flinched when he saw the twisted network of scars on the side of her face. He started edging forward, his aim never wavering.
Paul Jeffries grew agitated. “Don't you hurt her!”
The man in plaid smiled grimly. “If she drops the gun, there'll be no need. Why don't you go on and do that now, sweetheart?”
“Like hell!” Melinda yelled.
“Mindy . . .” Paul called to her in a soft voice.
Melinda turned, raising her gun and pointing it at Paul's chest. “Don't you dare! How can you call me that after what you've done?”
“Ma'am, drop the gun!” The man in plaid stalked closer, using Melinda's car as cover.
“We can talk about things.” Paul's eyes shone with tears, and the hand he held out to her trembled. “Please.”
Melinda looked around wildly, her gaze shifting between Paul and her plaid stalker. She aimed the gun toward the man, then at Paul, then back again. “Stop trying to corral me! Don't come any closer!”
Detective Hoffstra worked his way over to Ciel and Janice while Melinda was distracted. He urged Janice toward the SUV, then lifted Ciel into his arms. Pain shot through her body, and she bit down on her lip, holding back a scream. Hoffstra staggered over to the SUV and laid Ciel on the ground behind it as gently as he could. “Stay here,” he instructed before moving around the side of the car and out of their sight.
Agitated voices filled the night, everyone trying to talk over one another.
A shot rang out.
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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook