Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice:
Title: Miss Me, -Kait
By noon, we’d made the lake, walked the campground, and I’d watched Riley touch, absorb, discard, and move on. I knew how the woman worked, but as usual, I hated it. She internalized everything, and told me what she thought pertinent. Okay, so she got it right, most of the time, but just once I’d like to see it all with her.
The thought reminded me of the hulking shadow in Riley’s window.
Maybe I didn’t want to see more.
I looked to the water, where screaming adolescents rode ziplines from somewhere above the shore down into the water.
“Zzziiiip,” Riley said, the word a long buzz ending in a hard p-sound.
I turned my head, but Riley’s attention still played around in Neverland or wherever she went. She said it again though, and this time I noticed it preceded another trip down the line. I waited and sure enough, seconds before the next rider, she made the sound again.
I touched her shoulder, thinking to shake her out of it—
Hannah, you’re such a girl! I bet Kait won’t make a peep when we get her up there. She’s tough.
Dude, Kait has brass balls in her shorts. That’s why she never takes ‘em off.
Shut your mouth, Chad. You’re such a dick.
I jerked back, forgetting to let go of Riley. She dropped the D-clip in her hand and stared at me.
“My name is Adam.” I ground the words out through my teeth. “I’m not calling you Black, am I?”
Riley watched me, her eyes guarded.
“You used to,” she said. “Though I noticed you didn’t this time. Why the change?”
Because I can’t keep pretending you don’t matter to me.
“Because I’ve known you for half a decade, Riley. Because shit on this case is seriously fucking weird. Because I touch you and I—see—things.”
“Hannah on the zipline. Chad being an A-class douchebag.”
Riley paled. I reached for her and she nearly fell over in her haste to pull away. I didn’t expect it to hurt, but damn.
“You never told me,” she said.
“Told you what?”
“The hell you say.” I backpedaled now. “I don’t even know what that is.”
“You feel the emotions of others.”
“That’s human compassion, Riley, nothing more.”
“Well you’re sure as fuck something more, Murray,” she said.
“My name—is Adam.”
Riley crossed her arms across her ample chest. “You’re certainly touchy enough to be an empath.”
I waved away the concept with an irritated hand. “We have more issues right now. What’s so important about the zipline?”
Riley gave me a look like I rode the crazy train.
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re the one who keeps saying ziiippp like it’s a matter of national security.”
“I do?” Her brow dug deep lines in her forehead. “Maybe it is.”
The world reshaped in Riley’s eyes as she thought back over whatever she’d seen.
“It isn’t the zipline,” she said. “There’s information. On a portable drive, a zip drive. Kait had something important, and it totally occupied her thoughts. She kept thinking about it. Obsessing, even. It’s important. We find the drive, I say we get a hard line on what led to Kait’s disappearance.”
A portable drive. It made sense, in a way. Kait had incriminating information on someone, something big, maybe even on one of her vacation buddies. Shit deteriorated—
“Kait didn’t care about the people here,” Riley said. “Her attention was on someone outside this inner circle. Someone—I think he’s who she had dirt on.”
“The guy we saw in the window?”
“Maybe, yeah. Her concern is definitely focused on someone… not here. I don’t have a name yet, just an impression. You got anything?”
I reared back. “Ah…”
Riley nodded. “I’ll take that as a no.”
“Even if I assume you’re right,” I said.
“I am, Adam,” she said. Trust her to go for a sucker punch with my first name. “You’re part of this, as much as I am. Kait has information and she means us to find it.”
I inhaled slowly. “Then I guess we should get on with business.”
“You’re with me, then?”
Bucking the protocols of our relationship, I dragged her close, until our lips just touched.
“I’m with you until the end, got it?”
“I got it,” she whispered.
Our lips met and for a few precious moments I forgot everything but Riley and the feel and taste of her. The real world would intrude soon enough. For now, I absorbed every taste and sensation she shared with me, and I knew I wouldn’t walk away from this case untouched.
She moaned and pressed closer.
As though I’d ever had a chance.
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.