Part 7

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Depressed, I looked for an easier way up. “Damn it, Trent, who did you piss off now?” I complained as I found a way to the top.

Trent was coming back from the car, his head down. “I’m sorry,” he said as he handed me my unbroken splat ball. “I don’t know what’s going on. I think there’s a restaurant half a mile up. We can get a cab. I’d feel better with people around us.”

Oddly enough, I would too. Whoever had targeted him wanted it to be in a dark alley, not where there were witnesses.

Without another word, he left the car behind and began hoofing it up the steep, winding road. I hastened to follow, dropping the splat ball he’d given me in my bag where it wouldn’t spell me if it broke. “Trent, who’s been most active with the death threats lately?”

His posture was bent as he labored up the hill. “Nothing sticks out.”

“Nothing sticks out?” I came even with him, pulse fast. “Look, there’s someone else out here. Assassins always travel in pairs.”

He looked sideways at me. “Why do you think I abandoned the car?”

Why do you think I abandoned the car? I mocked in my thoughts, then quashed it. “Let me call Ivy,” I prompted. “She can pick us up. Who knew you’d be at the marina tonight? Who knows the number you’d hit on the keypad?”

He was silent.  The crickets had resumed their chorus, and I heard a boat hoot on the river. “Quen? Ellasbeth?”

His pace bobbled, and I pounced on it.

“You told Ellasbeth?” I said, aghast. “For God’s sake, why?”

 “She wanted to see the boat, but this isn’t her. I don’t know who it is, but it isn’t her.”

He was lying. The question was if he was lying to me, or himself. The faint moonlight glinted on a webbing across the road, and we drew up short when we found the chain-link fence.  It was stretched right across the road. Thirty feet above, a paved road ran perpendicular to it.  Seeing the cut someone had made in the links, I pulled it aside so Trent could go through. “It’s not like you to be this blind,” I said softly.

“She’s the mother of my child.”

But he didn’t seem to be happy when he said it, and I looked at him, the fence between us. “Exactly. ” How could something as wonderful as Lucy stem from someone as nasty as Ellasbeth? “She’s going to fight for full custody, even if it means taking you out.”

Grimacing, Trent bent the fence inward for me. “As long as I’m single, she has a chance to have it all. Killing me now would serve no purpose.”

I slipped through, my eyes on the nearby roadway. Thirty feet, and we’d be back in civilization. “Car,” I said, seeing the light on the trees before hearing the engine. “You want me to flag them down?”

Eyes up on the road, Trent pulled me behind a tree. My heart pounded at his sudden grip, and the encroaching light and sound brought back the twined feelings of terror and excitement I’d felt playing hide and seek as a girl. “Ellasbeth isn’t trying to kill me,” he whispered, and I flushed when he noticed me shiver.

Breath held, I watched the car go by.  His length was pressed up against mine, hands gripping my shoulders. The scent of wine and cinnamon cascaded over me, and I closed my eyes at the feeling of denied passion. “They’re gone,” I whispered, and his hands slipped away.

Steps silent, he retreated. My back felt cold where he’d been, and I looked at him standing in the shadows, feeling a loss I had no right to feel. “Do you have signal?” he finally said.

My head dropped, and I pulled my phone from a back pocket. Flipping it up, I squinted in the sudden light. “Yes.”

“Good. Call Ivy.”

His tone was short. Pensive, he turned to look the way we’d come up.

 I scrolled to find her number, thinking it was unusual that he’d agree to bring Ivy in this.  Ivy had kept me alive more times than I had spell books in my kitchen, but to have that trust extend to him was unusual. “Thanks,” I whispered as I put the phone to my ear.

A snap so soft it could have been a moth’s wing zinged through me. My head came up. I could see nothing, my night vision ruined by the phone’s screen. They traveled in pairs.

“No!” Trent exclaimed, voice low but intent, and I gasped when he plowed into me.  Breath held, I felt the ground slam into my shoulder and thigh. Trent’s weight landed on me half a second later, knocking the wind out of me. 

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