“You cause a lot of trouble, bitch.”
He brought his gun up and laid it on her knee, not a killing shot, but one meant to incapacitate her. She kicked her legs out, swinging her arms and running her nails down his face. He growled down at her, blood forming in deep lines across his cheeks as he pressed the gun down harder into her knee, stilling her movements.
She had a feeling he was toying with her. Neeka pushed at his chest, able to lift him slightly up and praying for a miracle.
In the next instant, a gunshot rang close by. The heavy weight of the guard was suddenly lifted from her and air rushed into her lungs. She opened her eyes, turning her head and seeing two combat boots take up her vision. She looked up and saw Gage’s hand outstretched, his face covered in blood so dark it looked black. She slipped her hand in his and let him haul her up.
The guard that had attacked her lay supine in the dirt, a single bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. His eyes stared vacantly up into the night sky, unblinking, as dark blood spread out behind his head.
“Come on. We don’t have much time before they are out here.” He positioned her behind his body as he aimed his gun at the lock on the fence and shot. Sparks flew and the lock fell off, the gates opening like arms waiting for an embrace.
They took off, Gage pulling her forward, her legs and feet screaming in agony as she continued to feel her warm blood slip down from the cut on her leg and cover her foot. Her eyes started to water, her emotions and the pain finally catching up with her.
She could hear shouts, but they moved faster, and soon the sounds grew more distant. Neeka never glanced back, just kept her eyes trained on the terrain. The moon was bright enough that they could see where they were going, but her feet were killing her and she started to stumble.
He didn’t ask what was wrong, just stopped and scooped her up, running forward again as if he weren’t carrying a substantial weight.
She felt as if they’d been moving forever. Never once did they speak to each other, and never once did he stop running. She saw a dark shape up ahead, and her heart pounded wildly. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and he turned to look at her.
Their gazes held for a second before he turned his attention forward again. She breathed out a sigh when she realized it was a vehicle, and that it was his. He was gentle with her as he helped her into the backseat, mindful of her wounds, before getting in the front and starting the car.
“You better buckle up.”
She swallowed and nodded as she strapped the seatbelt across her body and stared at the high tech equipment that furnished the inside of the vehicle. He pushed several buttons, and the front of the windshield became a moss green color. Night-vision? She didn’t bother questioning him, knowing some things were better left unsaid.
“Is my father doing okay?” It had seemed like years since she had seen him. “I mean, he wasn’t well when I was taken, and that seems like ages ago.”
“You’ve been missing for longer than is acceptable. Your father didn’t look good when I spoke with him, but he’s still alive and eagerly awaiting your return.”
She breathed out, fatigue now starting to set in. “What about Rye? Is he dead?” There was a heavy silence, and before he spoke, she knew the answer. “He got away, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, but I’ll find him. I’ll fucking find him,” he seemed to whisper the last part to himself.
She let her head fall back against the seat, closing her eyes and wishing that when she woke up, this would all be a bad dream.
Neeka opened her eyes, looking around and blinking a few times as everything came into focus. She realized that she was now lying across the leather seat of the SUV.
A large coat was draped across her legs, smelling of evergreen and something darker, something … comforting. She slowly sat up, keeping the coat across her legs and shivering slightly.
She looked out her window, seeing a small gas station on her left, the lights in the parking lot bright and offensive. To her right was a wide stretch of open road, the moon still high in the sky, illuminating the sandy hills that covered the vast expanse of open land. She knew she was far from Shyloh, the mountains she had grown to love distant from this desolated place.
She shifted to the center of the seat, looking out the windshield and seeing if she could spot Gage. She didn’t dare get out of the car. Neeka breathed out when she saw him emerge from the postage-stamp-sized convenience store, several bags in hand, his face and clothes no longer covered in blood and dirt.