Chapter 23

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The police burst out of the stairwell, and in the same moment the elevator doors sprang open. I didn't spare them more than a glance. Throwing my full weight into each step, I sprinted through the foyer, Ryan hot on my heels.

"Do you remember where we parked?" Ryan asked, not the least bit out of breath.

Lactic acid burned my joints. I was already ready to give up. "Are you even human?" I gasped.

He had the indecency to laugh, and his voice didn't quiver when he replied, "Well, not really, no."

My advantage was my size. I could easily weave through the thick crowd of reporters and hospital visitors. The path I created was easy enough for Ryan to follow, but the broad-shouldered and heavily padded policemen behind us struggled. There must have been fifty people crowded in the hospital entrance, but once they realised what was happening, they jumped away from me in fear.

I didn't have the breath to tell them that I wasn't going to set them on fire. It was kind of entertaining watching adults lurch away from a pint-sized girl as if I was going to stab them.

"Right at the front," I answered Ryan's earlier question.

He passed me once we flew through the double doors that led to our exit, and I struggled to keep up with his long strides.

"Hurry, Olivia."

"I'm trying!"

We had almost made it to the car when I heard the heart-wrenching sound of the policemen making their escape. Now that the crowd had dispersed, they were gaining on us. Fast.

Ryan fumbled with the keys as he withdrew them from his pocket. "Dammit."

"C'mon, Ryan. We're can't get caught because you won't put some damn keys in a car door!"

"I'm trying, okay?" He mimicked my earlier sentiment.

Finally, he steadied his grip and forced the keys into the lock. After opening the doors, we flung ourselves into the vehicle. Ryan didn't pause to fasten his seatbelt before he slammed his foot onto the accelerator and the car shuddered to a start. But as soon as we began to move, the wheels screeched and came to a halt. I screamed when I nearly crashed into the windscreen.

The policemen surrounded us now and banged on the doors and windows.

"Out of the car!"

"We have you surrounded!"

A particularly fierce officer, probably their commander, stood by the bonnet, his gun raised and aimed at my forehead.

"They can't shoot me, right? I'm not armed." My voice shook, but ignoring my fear, Ryan didn't reply.

"Right, Ryan? They won't shoot me, will they?"

"He'll move out of the way," he murmured, but he wasn't talking to me. He chanted the words under his breath, over and over again. "He'll step aside. He won't let me run him over."

"Ryan, what? No. Don't."

My punctuated words didn't stop him. He didn't take his eyes off the man in front of us as he smashed his foot onto the accelerator. Thankfully, his prayers were answered, and the officer wasn't suicidal. He jumped away from the car as we headed straight for him, narrowly avoiding being hit.

"Ryan! They'll arrest you for that!"

He didn't slow down to exit the carpark, and the sharp right turn onto the main road nearly caused him to lose control of the car.

"Ryan, be careful!"

"I'm trying to concentrate, Olivia."

Because the police didn't expect us to nearly run them over, they hadn't bothered to enter their own vehicles. I was grateful for the head start. But Ryan shocked me when he rounded the corner, drove for a few seconds, and turned into a multi-storey carpark on the same round.

"Are you crazy?"

He tore through the carpark and climbed to the highest level, nearly hitting a few pedestrians on the way. The flipped us the bird when they jumped out of our path.

"They'll never expect us to stay so close. I saw it in a movie once."

"You're basing our escape plan on a movie?"

Ryan parked the car, and it wasn't his best work. It wasn't really in a space. The boot stuck out on a diagonal, and I hoped he didn't care too much about it, because it was definitely going to be hit by another car.

He opened the driver's side door and exited the car. "Stay here. I'm going to take a look."

I was far too curious to follow his orders. Following suit, I swung open the car door and traced his movements to the edge of the carpark. There was a small viewing space where we could observe the main road unseen.

Ryan stopped staring outside for a moment to glare at me. "I thought I told you to stay in the car?"

I ignored him and came to crouch beside where he stood. We were six floors up, so the people below wouldn't see our foreheads peaking over the barrier. At least, that's what I told myself.

Bright flashes of red, white and blue bounced around the buildings below us. The cars didn't stop. They raced down the road and out of sight. There must have been five, no six, vehicles in total.

Why do they think six cars are necessary to bring me down?

Ryan spoke my thoughts aloud. "It's like you're Ted Bundy or something."

"Surely they don't think I'm that dangerous." I turned and sank to the floor, leaning back against the wall. My heart hammered in my chest so hard that I could hear it. "Like, this is insane."

"Well, they aren't wrong." Ryan joined me on the ground. "You aren't the pretty princess you seem to be."

I decided to ignore the thinly-veiled jib toward my abilities and fought to keep a smile off my face as I quipped, "You think I'm pretty?"

Ryan scowled, but I swore he looked a amused. It may have been the light, but his cheeks looked red as if he was blushing. "Not the point, Princess."

"I only just got used to Sparky. Please don't make Princess a thing now."

I skimmed my fingers across the tarmac between us, absentmindedly tracing S.O.S. I drew the acronym in the sand whenever my parents took me to the beach as a child. Although, I did it with a stick in large letters so you could see it from the sky. Dad always insisted it wasn't funny to fake an incident, but it wasn't like anyone was going to take a crudely printed S.O.S on a crowded beach seriously. He liked to suck the fun out of things.

The sirens faded into the distance, and I finally caught my breath. Apparently Ryan's love of action movies had worked in our favour. But I'd never admit he made the right move.

I risked a peek at him from the corner of my eye and saw that he was smiling. Not his usual arrogant smirk. A real smile graced his lips, and it was oddly charming.

Then I realised. Amongst the police chase and the near car accident I had forgotten that Daniella proved my innocence. Ryan knew I didn't set fire to my bully's house. Maybe now that he didn't think I was an attempted murderer he could relax around me and enjoy the bitter banter we shared. But I didn't want to find Ryan funny. The idea of savouring any moment between me and my quasi bodyguard was ridiculous.

I couldn't enjoy the presence of the boy who's sacred duty it was to punish me.

Could I?

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