…. EPISODE 39…..
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. IcantbreatheIcantbreatheIcantbreathe.
Something heavy is on my back, pressing me into the ground, and I can’t move. I try to push it off, try to pull some air into my tortured lungs, but whatever’s on top of me is so not budging.
“Just a little longer, Kenna,” Draven whispers in my ear, and that’s when I realize he’s what’s on top of me. “It’s almost over.”
I try to answer him, but I don’t have enough air to form words. I stop struggling as it all comes back to me. The sound of helicopters. The firebombed cabin. Draven throwing himself over me and knocking me to the ground as the world exploded around us.
With that understanding comes a calmness, and I push against him a little, to get enough space to let my lungs reinflate.
“Rex…bombed the cabin?” I grate out as the roar of a helicopter’s rotors comes close again.
“He’s doing more than that,” Draven answers grimly. “He’s burning the forest all around it.”
Sure enough, there’s another high-pitched whining noise followed closely by a second explosion. Draven covers me again as I hear the crackle of wood catching on fire all around us.
“We have to get out of here!” I yell, terrified more of burning alive at this point than of being blown up. But that explosion—and the ensuing smoke—must have been what Draven was waiting for, because he’s up and pulling me to my feet before I even manage to finish the sentence.
“Run!” he shouts, like I have a choice or something. But I don’t. His hand is around my wrist and he’s running full out, dragging me toward the trees in front of us as I struggle to keep up.
The others are scrambling along with us. I can see the vague shadows of them through the smoke, can hear them coughing as they run.
All around us, the trees and undergrowth are catching on fire. It’s been a long, dry summer. It makes me wonder—even as we run—how Rex plans to explain this. I know we’re isolated, but if he doesn’t get the fire out quickly, half this mountain is going to burn.
And if we don’t escape, we’ll burn right along with it.
Draven must have the same thought, because he yells, “Faster, Kenna! Faster! We’ve got to move.”
I don’t bother trying to answer him. I save my breath for the run. At this pace, I need every ounce of oxygen I can get.
As we tear through the forest, I can hear the helicopter above us, trying to keep pace though the trees that are giving us decent cover. I can also hear the shouts of the hero troops as they get boots on the ground and start tracking us. It terrifies me. We’ve been through hell the last few weeks, have seen the most awful things imaginable. My mother died. And still, I think this is the most scared I’ve ever been. Rex is completely out of control, and I can’t imagine what he’s going to do when he realizes we weren’t in that cabin. Can’t imagine what he’ll do if he actually gets his hands on one of us alive.
That spurs me to run just a little faster, though I didn’t think that was possible even a few minutes ago. I’m using every ounce of strength I have to keep up with Draven—to lead the others out of danger—but I know I don’t have long before I collapse. I’m in good shape, but there’s a difference between running and sprinting. What we’re doing is long-distance sprinting, and it’s absolutely exhausting. Adrenaline will get us only so far.
“Over here,” Draven yells to the others, before we zig around a rock formation and then down into a small ravine.
The others follow without question. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” I gasp out, looking around while we run. If they catch us down here, we’ll have nowhere to go. Suddenly I know exactly what that old expression shooting fish in a barrel means. And I have no desire to play fish for Rex Malone.
“I’m hoping the rocks will block their heat signature sensors,” he yells back as he pulls me along. The ravine is narrow, so we’re running one in front of the other, single file, but Draven still refuses to let go of my hand.
Not that I’m complaining. Right now, his palm is my lifeline.
“What if it doesn’t?” I ask.
“If it doesn’t, then we’re screwed.”
There isn’t much to say after that. And not just because I don’t have the breath for it.
The ravine is long, thank God. Probably a couple of miles, and we work our way through it like we’re going for a gold medal at the Olympics. We don’t stop until we get to the rock wall that signifies the end. By that time, Draven and Dante are the only two who can breathe at all. The rest of us are seconds away from collapsing in one big dog pile on the ground. Even V is bent over, her hands braced on her knees as she sucks in huge gasps of air.
“Stay here,” Draven orders as he starts to climb the wall, grabbing hold wherever he can find purchase.
“Where…are you…going?” I manage to gasp out.
“I want to look around, see what’s up there.”
The sound of helicopters is fainter here, more distant. As if Rex is concentrating his search closer to the cabin. Good.
But I’m not arguing with Draven’s caution. We can’t afford to get careless or underestimate Rex.
“I’m going with you,” Dante says, beginning to climb right next to him.
Rebel whimpers and clutches at him. I grab on to her and pull her back. We need to know what’s up there sooner rather than later, and right now the two of them are the only ones physically capable of climbing. The rest of us need a few minutes to recover.Recommend you to download Topster Stories App for Exclusive Access To Erotic and Romantic stories (Join Group) https://t.me/topsterstories
“Oi! Be careful,” Nitro tells them between hacking coughs. “Rex wants us all dead.”
Draven nods but doesn’t say anything. Neither does Dante. Then again, what is there to say? Nitro’s only stating the obvious.
“My dad tried to kill me,” Riley whines between pants.
Oh, yeah. I guess there’s still that…
Deacon, who has gotten his breath back faster than the rest of us who weren’t recently tortured by Rex, snorts. “You didn’t actually think he wouldn’t try to kill us?”
“Well, you guys, yeah.” Riley gestures vaguely at our group. “But Rebel? Me?” He looks so bewildered that I almost feel sorry for him. No, wait, I actually do. He’s had the rug pulled out from under him as much if not more than the rest of us. “I’m his favorite.” His voice sounds like it’s about to crack. “I was supposed to be his successor. I’m—”
“A traitor,” V says bluntly.
V pushes upright. “He probably wants you dead as much as he wants Kenna’s
head on a spike. Maybe even more.”
“Thanks for the visual,” I mutter.
“Hey!” Nitro glares at V as he moves a little closer to Riley and wraps a comforting arm around his shoulders. “Don’t say that shite to him.”
“What? You want me to sugarcoat it? Men like Rex don’t take betrayal lightly. As far as he’s concerned, Riley is acceptable collateral damage.”
The thought makes my stomach roll. I know it’s true, have known it was true since I watched that newscast with Rebel dressed up like a clone of Mrs. Malone. Rex will do anything to anyone if it means getting one step closer to his goal. But still, I feel bad that Riley has just figured out how disposable he is to his own father.
I can’t imagine what that must feel like.
Whatever problems Mom and I had over the years, I always knew—deep down in my core—that everything she did was meant to protect me. She put me first. Always.
Just like she did in the courtroom. She sacrificed herself to save me. Something Rex would never do.
“It’s not like it’s a surprise,” Rebel tells him when she can finally breathe enough to string words together. “Dad’s a narcissistic douche nozzle. He’ll crush anyone who gets in his way. Even blood.”
“I get that,” Riley says, leaning in to Nitro for comfort. “I do. But still, he tried to kill me.”
“He tried to kill all of us,” V reminds him. “Well, yeah, but you’re villains. I’m…me.”
“Sorry to break the news to you,” Jeremy tells him. “But it looks like being you isn’t all that special.”
Nitro shoots Jeremy a murderous glare, then turns his attention back to Riley. “Your father is a bloody idiot,” he says, stroking Riley’s back soothingly. “But he’s not,” Riley argues. “That’s the point. My father is really smart and really disciplined. He doesn’t act on impulse. He thinks before acting. When he firebombed that cabin expecting Rebel and I were inside—knowing we were inside—when he did that, he wasn’t acting on emotion. He knew what would happen to us, and he…” He shakes his head. “He did it anyway.” For the first time, the shock in Riley’s voice gives way to anger.
I’m glad, because sad, heartbroken Riley was killing me. As much as I always thought he was a bit of a tool, he really is just a little boy on the inside. Sometimes on the outside too.
It sucks that Rex has blasted away his son’s innocence, but it’s about time Riley grew up.
Before any of us can respond, Draven shouts down, “I’m at the rim, but I can’t see anything. I’m going to climb out and take a look around.” “Right behind you, Cousin,” Dante calls out.
“Be careful,” I whisper, not loud enough for anyone else to hear.
While my emotions want him back on the ravine floor with the rest of us, I know that none of us are safe right now. We’re basically sitting ducks, and he’s trying to find us a way out. He’s only doing what he has to in order to get us out of here alive.
That doesn’t mean I like being separated by even this small distance. If I had the upper body strength, I would be at his side, looking out for him while he’s looking out for all of us.
Rebel loops an elbow through mine as she watches Dante finish the climb to the top next to Draven. She’s as tense as I am, her arm around mine more a vise than a comfort. But I don’t mind. I can barely feel it, if I’m being honest. I’m too wrapped up in my concern for Draven.
I suck in a breath as he peeks his head above the ravine and looks around. Then pulls himself out. Dante starts to do the same, but Draven gestures for him to stay put. Dante glances down at us—at me—and he doesn’t look happy. He doesn’t want Draven shouldering all the risk any more than I do. But he stays where he is. The next five minutes are some of the tensest of my life. I barely breathe, listening, jumping at the slightest rustle of pine boughs, the clatter of tumbling pebbles. Every little sound feels like a blaring alarm.
I try to tell myself that no one is up there, that Rex’s soldiers haven’t made it this far this fast, that Draven’s just being cautious. But neither my head nor my heart are buying it. Not when we’ve been discussing what a psychopath Rex Malone is. And not when Draven is out there alone.
Rex has proven he isn’t above killing his legitimate son. He certainly wouldn’t hesitate to gun down his illegitimate one. Suddenly, we hear a shout followed by a crash.
“Dray?” Dante calls out.
“What was that?” I yell up, but Dante’s too busy scrambling out of the ravine to answer me.
My heart explodes. Something’s wrong. Like Rex wrong.
I glance at the others, all of whom look as terrified as I feel.
“Get Nitro up there, now!” I tell Riley, who looks like he’s recovered enough to be able to fly. I want to be the one to go up, to see what’s going on. But in a fight, Nitro’s power is way more helpful than mine.
Riley doesn’t argue. Instead, he picks Nitro up and pretty much tosses him onto his back before shooting straight up to the top of the ravine. They sail over the edge and then I can’t see anything anymore.
I start up the rock face, suddenly wishing I’d taken my mom up on her invitations to take a climbing lesson or two. The others climb too. V and Deacon are in the lead—they’re way better at this kind of thing than the rest of us—but Rebel, Jeremy, and I are holding our own. Turns out desperation and adrenaline are a good combination.
Before any of us get to the top, Draven is back. He doesn’t look surprised to see us climbing and drops to the ground and reaches both hands down to pull me up. Dante does the same for Rebel, while Riley and Nitro help out Deacon and Jeremy. V climbs out unassisted.
“What happened?” I demand as soon as we’re standing. There isn’t much light left in the sky, but Nitro has a small fireball burning between his hands and I can see well enough to make out blood on Draven’s mouth. And his knuckles.
“There were three hero special forces scouting the area.” He shrugs his shoulder. “We took care of them.”
He doesn’t elaborate and I don’t ask him to. Instead, I pull him close and concentrate on the feel of him against me—the feel of him safe in my arms. Of me safe in his. At least for now.
He holds me for a second, then pulls away to hand something to Jeremy. “Can you do something with these?”
Jeremy holds up what looks like a wired communications earpiece, the kind with the curly cords that security goons wear. “I can get into their channel. If we can listen in on their chatter, maybe we can figure out what’s going on.”
“What’s going on,” Dante says softly and furiously, “is we’re being hunted.” Rebel nods. “Which means we need to get out of here before the next wave shows up.”
“To where?” Riley asks. “We don’t even know where we are.” V pulls out her phone and starts typing. “Working on it.” “Can’t your echolocation figure that out?” Jeremy asks.
V doesn’t look up from her phone. “I can draw you a perfectly to-scale map of the surrounding five acres if you’d like,” she says, “right down to the fifty-seven highly trained hero SWAT operatives who are currently crunching through the woods, but I can’t place the map in context.” She raises a brow. “Can you do better?”
Jeremy snorts. “Of course.”
V look up. “Oh really?”
“I checked my compass app when we were still in the ravine.” He waggles his phone at her. “And I pulled up a map.” He points over his left shoulder. “North is that way, but our best bet for getting off this mountain quickly is south.”
He starts moving fast in the opposite direction from where he pointed, and for a second, we all stare at him—or rather his retreating back—in shock. Who is this new, take-charge Jeremy, and where has he been hiding? I glance around the group, waiting to see if anyone is going to follow the technopath down the mountain.
Finally, Draven shrugs and starts walking.
The rest of us follow, a ragged, worn-out group traipsing through the woods. Between Jeremy’s tech skills, V’s echolocation, and everyone else’s fighting abilities, we might just make it out of here alive.
Despite the danger we’re in, I can’t help grinning when Nitro whispers, “He did hear us when we said V knows seventeen ways to kill a man with her bare hands, right? We were really clear on that.”
“You know Jeremy,” I reply. “He likes to live on the edge.”
Several of the others laugh, and for a moment we can forget the danger fast on our heels. Sometimes a moment is all it takes.