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“Did you just—” I let the question trail off. No need to ask what she just did.

Lacey drops hold of the rock as though she was momentarily possessed when she attacked Charlie’s henchman and now, suddenly herself again, finds that she’s gripping onto a murder weapon. “I just—he needed to let you go,” she whimpers. “Is he—is he dead?”

Should I even bother checking? It takes two seconds to form the answer. “No, he’s gonna be fine. But we need to get out of here. Like, right now.” The truth is that I have no idea whether either of the men are likely to survive the assault to their bodies, but I could give two shits right now. We’ve just dodged a bullet. Perhaps literally dodged a bullet. We don’t have time to be checking on pulses and asking if our victims are alright. “Get in the car, Lace.” I point to the sedan, indicating which one I mean.

She complies quickly, arms wrapped around her body, tucking herself into the back seat of the black vehicle. I almost ask her what she thinks she’s doing getting into the back when I remember Zeth’s words: She can’t. She won’t. But that’s something to query another time. Right now, I have other things to worry about.

I freeze for a second, giving myself a moment to quit panicking and think. Think, Sloane! Blunt force trauma to the head. Diclofenac. How much time do I have here? Could be five minutes. Could just as easily be five seconds, too. I don’t have time to run upstairs for clothes, but I figure I do have enough time to run inside the house and grab my purse from the table by the front door. Once I’ve snatched that up, I hurry to the parked Volvo by the side of the house, retrieve the key from my purse, pop the hood, and then—

Then I come to a halt.

A car won’t work without spark plugs, I know that, but faced with the engine I have no idea where the spark plugs are. Or what they look like. Gasping in exasperation, I grab ahold of one of the thick black hoses feeding into the engine block and I yank it free. A bolt and a washer come loose, skittering to the ground. I pick both up and throw them as hard as I can into the dark, scrubby undergrowth, praying that the car can’t work without them.

Enough delay.

I run back to the sedan to find Lacey shaking uncontrollably in the rearview. I also find the keys already in the ignition, just waiting to be cranked. They obviously wanted to make a quick getaway. Thank fuck. “Why are we taking their car?” Lacey’s teeth chatter together as she speaks. I’ve seen shock before, can recognize its early stages. I need to get her some sugar and soon otherwise she’s gonna crash. Hard.

“Their people know my car. They might be out looking for it when these two don’t check in or something. We’re better off taking this and dumping it, then getting a rental car.”

Lacey’s eyes contain distant pinpricks of awareness. She nods slowly, pulling her knees up under her chin, hugging her bent legs to her chest. I drive into the night, speeding away from my house and the bodies of the two strangers who came to do us harm.

It turns out it was vital that I grabbed my purse. The gas tank is running on vapors by the time we hit the freeway—who doesn’t fill up the tank if they’re planning on a good ol’ kidnapping? I immediately leave the city limits and find myself on I-5 South without even making the conscious decision. The road stretches out in a never-ending expanse of blacktop now, a vast ribbon of roadway that will carry us for roughly seventeen hours in the same direction until we hit upon Los Angeles. I could have gone to the hospital. I could have gone to Pip, too, but the thought of dragging trouble to her doorstep is one I can’t entertain. Same with my workplace. All I know is that the only person capable of keeping us safe now is probably going to be annoyed at our presence. And I literally have no idea how to find him once we reach L.A.

Lacey eventually falls asleep after we stop at a gas station and I grab her an overly sweet soda and a couple of power bars. Once dawn hits, weak and bleary, a pale pink color washing over the cloudy sky, I find a Wal-Mart off the freeway and wait for it to open. Lacey remains asleep in the car as I go inside and grab us each a couple of changes of clothing. The cashier glances down at the fresh, purple bruising on my forearm where the guy grabbed me earlier and shakes her head, as though the state I’m in, the early hour, and my hastily grabbed stash of jeans, T-shirts and shoes tells a story all of their own. She clearly thinks I’m on the run from an abusive boyfriend or something.

It’s amazing the difference a pair of jeans and some ballet flats can make to a flight of escape. I certainly feel less vulnerable than I did in my PJs, either way. Lacey wakes a solid eight hours later, is conscious long enough to tell me that she doesn’t know how to drive, before I decide enough is enough and we need to dump the car. We stop in Jackson County, Oregon, and abandon the vehicle in a liquor store parking lot with the keys still in the ignition—someone’s bound to steal it given the neighborhood—and then we traipse five blocks over to a Rest Eezy Motel, where I promptly check us in under a false name and then pass the fuck out.


“What the fuck do you mean, the place was empty?”

Callum, one of my boys, cautiously words the information he needs to tell me, knowing full well how much shit he’s in. I set him the task of checking in on Sloane’s place through the night and the unbelievable little motherfucker is only calling me now, at eleven fucking a.m., to tell me that the house was empty when he got there. “When did you last go by the place?” I demand.

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