Eighteen

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Eventually I found the highway again and got a good bit of distance between us and the town where we had left a path of destruction. The image of the suburban flipping over and over continued to play in my head. Melissa and I hadn't spoken a word since she had ordered me away from the scene. I believed we were both still in shock.

Eventually I was exhausted and in need of rest. I pulled off the highway and parked at a truck stop, deciding we needed to figure out where we were going next.

But when I parked, we just sat in silence. There was a realization that we had cheated death many times already, and by now our luck had to be running low. We were stretching ourselves thin, and eventually something would snap.

While I attempted to process what had happened, Melissa decided to reload her gun. The sound of soft rock music filled the quiet as I watched the neon sign of the truck stop flicker through the night.

Melissa snapped the safety of her gun and put it in the glove compartment of the car. Then she looked at me with worried eyes.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

I nodded slowly. "Yeah, just... processing."

"They were gonna kill us, Alexa," she said. "It was kill or be killed."

I wasn't in shock because we had potentially killed two men, I was in shock because they had literally tumbled over a cliff. It was like something out of an action movie, except the real thing was just so... real.

I could hear the crunching of metal. The sight of sparks flying as it skidded and flipped into the air. The suburban disappearing completely over the steep cliff. It had been so surreal.

After trying so hard to avoid hurting people, to avoid death, I had done it again. I had taken two lives. I was reverting back to calloused ways, and I wondered if those two men had families that would hear the news of their deaths soon.

I rubbed my eyes. "I'm physically and mentally drained, but I need to figure out where Paige is."

"Finish this where it all started," Melissa quoted Paige's letter. "When exactly what started?"

As much as I tried to rack my brain, it was clouded with fatigue. I needed to close my eyes. I needed a breather.

I reclined my seat. "I need to close my eyes for a bit."

"Alright," Melissa replied understandingly.

We had until sunrise to find my sister. That was about ten hours away. The urgency of the situation would refuse me any sleep, but maybe I could catch a small nap and recharge.

And maybe my dreams would show me some much-needed answers.

"Alexa, wake up," I heard.

The sweat on my brow made me wonder if we had traveled back in time, back to the July month spent in Los Angeles. But when I woke up and touched the window, the cool glass brought me back to reality.

"I think I know where Paige is," Melissa stated.

I sat up. "Where?"

"Switch." She exited the passenger side and decided she would drive.

I reluctantly swapped places with her.

She hopped into the driver's seat and pulled the car back out onto the road.

"Where did all of this start?" Melissa repeated. "Where did your paths meet for the first time?"

I thought through the grogginess of sleep and realized it had to be Pasadena. It had to be the warehouse that Stanley and Malvardo's men had met the night of the drug bust.

"The warehouse in Pasadena," I whispered. "How far away are we?"

"About six hours," Melissa advised while she set up the map on her phone. Then she looked at me. "You can go back to sleep if you need, I got this."

I checked the clock on the dash and realized it was already almost eight p.m. Jeez, I had slept for an hour?

"I'm not tired anymore," I lied.

Truth was, I wasn't tired physically, just mentally.

I felt Melissa's soft grip slip into mine as I leaned back into the passenger seat. Now that I was able to shed the sleep clouding my brain, I was beginning to think about what we were heading into.

"We need some sort of a game plan," Melissa said.

"Yeah," I agreed. "We storm in there, guns a-blazin', and we get my sister the hell out of there."

She glanced at me. "No, I mean, we need a strategy. I'm almost positive Paige doesn't know I'm with you, and if she doesn't know, she's not preparing to fight two people. She's preparing to fight one."

I contemplated what Melissa was saying and realized she was right.

"So, we can use our numbers to our advantage," I said.

Melissa sighed. "The only bad thing is, we have no idea what she's planning. We won't know where she is, or where she's keeping Anna..."

"We could split up."

Our eyes met. It wasn't my favorite option. Hell, up until now it hadn't even been an option. But I was convinced Paige would be waiting for me. And I was positive she wasn't planning to let me leave there alive.

"It's an option..." Melissa started.

"It's the only option," I included. "You said it yourself. Paige isn't expecting you. If we separate, we can cover more ground and find Anna faster."

Melissa wouldn't argue with me because deep down, she knew I was right. As much as splitting up had its pros, it also had cons. Like, someone getting hurt and needing help.

But I had to separate my emotions from this.

We were here for Anna. I was here for Anna, and I will not die without knowing she's safe and far away from Paige. And if Melissa wasn't around me when we went into the warehouse, she would remain out of harm's way as well.

"We'll figure more out when we get there, okay?" Melissa said.

I nodded as I turned away from her and faced out the window. My eyes were trained on the night sky, but my attention was elsewhere.

We're coming, Anna, Ithought. Just hold on.


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