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“If you use the phone, you will die.”
She paced in the close quarters of the cabin. “I need to reach my people.”
“You don’t have any people. You thinks it’s a coincidence they hit your warehouse when they did?”
“Some of my people must still be loyal.”
“Probably, but you don’t know which.” I was telling the truth, but not the whole truth. I didn’t want her on the squawk box because she was using me and I was using her and the less contact she had with her dangerous friends the safer I was. The nearest phone was a couple of miles down the road, but I had no doubt about her resourcefulness. Lola Fanutti didn’t get where she was on good looks alone. But the dame had the looks, and she was trying to use them on me.
“I’m sorry,” she said with a shy little smile that complimented her newly-blonde hair, “I’m not used to having a man look out for me the way you do.” She took a step closer and I smelled the wildflowers, the first thing I had ever known about her a hundred years—or two days, depending on how you counted it—ago at Jake’s.
“I’m looking out for me,” I said.
She faltered. She turned slightly away from me and looked down at the floor. She spoke in a tiny voice, all Meredith, the simple girl from Kentucky. “I thought you liked me.” She was beautiful when she was hurt.
“I do like you. That’s why I don’t want you doing anything stupid. It would be a shame to see that pretty neck of yours get broken.”
She turned back to me, flashing her pearly whites. “You do like me?”
“Doll, you’re a piece of work. I’d probably fall in love with you if you weren’t so dangerous.”
“Don’t say that where Alice can hear you. She’s more dangerous than I am.”
I was tired of sparring with her. I was just plain tired. “I’ve got to get some sleep.” There was only one bed in the room; the place was supposed to be for newlyweds.
She looked tired as well, but she was just going to have to wait. “You can take your turn after I head back into town.” I laid down, on top of the covers, still in the same clothes I had put on two days ago. I was asleep in moments.
I dreamt, I think. I remember running, something dark and oppressive behind me, something else brittle and jagged in front of me, and pacing me on one side a lioness, on the other a wolf. That may not have been a dream, however. We ran, and even high in the mountains it was hot, and the air was filled with the smell of wildflowers. I came awake abruptly and she was next to me, asleep, one arm draped across my chest, the other curled against her head, her blonde hair spilling across the pillow, her lips slightly parted, a thin trail of saliva running down her cheek, creating an expanding dark area on the bedspread.
I watched her for a few minutes. She was peaceful, somehow smaller, in her sleep perhaps honest for the first time since I met her. Her arm on my chest was delicate and graceful, the delicate fuzz that covered it glowing in the light. Her knee was pulled up and rested on my thigh. The smell of wildflowers teased me. She was still dangerous.
She opened her eyes and caught me looking straight at her. She took a moment to come back from wherever she had been, then smiled. “Caught you,” she said, then blushed when she discovered the drool running down her face. She wiped it away with the hand that was not resting against my chest, and laughed, almost timidly. Almost. There was something else in the laugh as well. An offer. A promise.
I wanted to sit up, but her arm weighed a thousand pounds, and held me to the bed. I had dozed off for a few minutes and just like that I was ambushed. She moved her face closer to mine. I prepared myself to resist. Ambushed, cornered, but not lost yet. She was going to throw her best line at me and I was not going to fall for it.
She pulled closer yet; her eyelashes brushed my cheek, moist with tears, as I looked at the ceiling. “I’m frightened,” she said.
I never stood a chance. I turned to look at her and our noses bumped and out lips touched and I don’t remember much about what happened next, and even if I did I wouldn’t tell you.
Tune in next time for: Message from the Grave!