Part 4

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“Thank you.” I’m still never going to work for you again—cookie farts.

As if knowing my thoughts, he punched in a number using more force than necessary, jerking back at a jump of static when he hit enter. “You okay?” I asked as he rubbed his fingertip and settled into the seat.

“Short in the wire.”

But his concern was far more than a poke of electricity would warrant. “You’re not immune to a sniper spell,” I grumbled suspiciously as the bar rose. Unease growing, I waved sourly at the camera as we drove through. Backroom illegal deals. Nice. My mom would freak out. At least it was over and nothing had happened.

Working the pedals like a professional driver, Trent picked up speed as he swerved through a maze of boat cradles. We were still on the marina’s property, but gradually the cradles became empty, older, and covered in weeds until they were gone. The road began rising, and slowly the tension of our discussion was pulled away in wind of our passage.

That is, until he drove right past our turnoff. I spun in my seat, hair flying into my face when I looked back. “You missed the turn,” I said, and he shook his head, grim as he rubbed his fingertip.

“Takes too long to get back into the city that way,” he said, slowing suddenly to take a sharp right turn.

“Are you kidding me?” I shouted, hands going to grip the dash and door as he spun the little car onto a dirt road that looked as if it was made for donkeys, not beamers. “Trent, it’s got to be like a thirty-degree grade!” What was this? Some way to get back at me?

Trent had one hand clenched on the wheel, the other on the shifter. “Road less traveled.”

Okay, this was freaky weird, and I held on as he took the switchbacks, tires spinning on the gravel and the scrub and trees closing in over us. He was tense, preoccupied—thinking thoughts he wasn’t going to share with me. The headlights bobbed wildly, and I couldn’t even tell why they even had this road. It looked as if it went right up to Edden Park—if you could manage the climb.

“Trent!” I cried, eyes widening as the lights found a dip in the road the size of Manhattan.

Jaw tight, Trent swerved. The lights flashed into the scrub, then we bounced off the shoulder and back onto the road. Adrenaline flashed through me.

“Look out!” I yelled, wanting to point but afraid to let go. Someone was in the road.  Someone was just standing in the middle of the friggin’ road!

Trent slammed his feet onto the brakes. My head swung forward, and the seatbelt cut into me. The car spun a quarter circle, and with a harsh revving, the engine stalled.

The sudden quiet was like a slap. Heart pounding, I held the car door and dash, trying to figure out if we’d hit the guy.

“Don’t do this to me,” Trent breathed, almost frantic as he tried to get the engine to turn over, but the convertible was unhappy at being asked to be an off-road vehicle and refused to start.

The moon couldn’t make it through the trees. It was dark, and as the engine wined and the lights dimmed from the draw on the battery, I tried to see what happened to the guy in the road. I hadn’t felt a thump.

This is not a good place to be. I wasn’t afraid of the dark, but even though we were inside the city limits, we were a good five-minute walk from anything. And where was that man who had caused it all?

The hair on the back of my neck began to prick. “Stay in the car.” The seatbelt retracted, and I slung my bag over my shoulder and reached for the door. Trent, though, was already halfway out, his motions smooth with decision.

“Stay here,” he demanded, using that voice that usually got other people to do what he wanted.  “Stay down.”

“Hey!” I exclaimed, affronted. “I’m the one doing security here. Trent!”

But he was gone, the door eased to a clicked shut.

Ticked, I shoved the door open and followed him out. Head up and eyes scanning, I dug in my shoulder bag for my splat gun. The road was silent under me, soft with loose soil. I was leaving footprints. The wind blew up from the river below. We were halfway between nothing and everything. Creeped out, I sent a sliver of my awareness out to tap the nearest ley line.

 Energy eased into me, spilling along my synapses and neurons, gathering to a warm pool in my chi.  

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