Ride Wild(6)

By: Laura Kaye

On a sigh, she wrote to Haven next, fully aware there would be all kinds of questions asked. I know it’s early, but any chance someone is around who could come get me?

Her phone rang immediately. That was a best friend for you. “Hey,” Cora said by way of answering.

“Where are you? Are you okay?” Haven asked, her words a little hard to hear with the rain pounding the ground.

“I’m . . .” She looked at the tall stalks of corn growing in the field along the right. There was no answer she’d give that was going to make Haven believe she was okay. “I decided to walk home, but then it started raining.”

Silence. Like Haven was trying to sort out all the ways that her answer was weird, because, well, it was weird. “You’re walking? Why are you walking?”

On a sigh, Cora decided to brazen it out. “Just felt like it,” she said instead of telling the truth. But she didn’t want to have to explain her panic attack . . . because then she’d have to explain the memories that’d caused it. And Haven didn’t know about any of that. It was a secret Cora hadn’t shared with another soul. At first, she’d kept what’d happened to herself out of shame and the desire to focus on just getting away from their evil fathers, not to mention the gut-deep belief that Haven’s home situation was so bad—and had been for such a long time—that Cora didn’t want to give her one more thing about which to worry. Now, all that was behind them and Haven was happy. Really happy, with Dare. And the last thing Cora wanted to do was mar that happiness with her own problems.

Problems that were all in the past now that her father was dead. And the ironic thing about his death? He’d died helping Haven’s father try to kidnap Haven, but hadn’t tried to nab Cora while he was at it. What kind of fucked up did she have to be that, on some seriously twisted level, it bothered her that he hadn’t wanted her back, too? When the last thing she’d wanted was to ever see him again . . .

“Are you still there?” Haven was asking.

The words snapped Cora from her spiraling thoughts, which was when she heard another car engine approaching behind her. “Yeah, sorry, car’s coming.” She stepped into the weeds again.

“Dare’s gonna come get you. Tell him where you are,” she said, not waiting for Cora to answer.

“Cora,” he said in that serious-as-a-heart-attack way he had. “What’s going on?” But she didn’t have a chance to answer, because just then, Slider’s pickup truck came alongside her, the passenger window down.

“Cora, get in,” Slider called out, crawling along beside her as she kept walking.

For a moment, Cora felt trapped between the two men, which in another situation she might’ve found funny or arousing or both.

“Um, hey,” she said, not really sure which of the men she was talking to . . . because she was surprised as hell that Slider had come after her.

“Where are you?” Dare asked through the cell.

Slider’s icy green eyes bored into her. “Get in. This isn’t safe.”

“With Slider,” she mumbled unthinkingly.

“Slider’s there?” Dare asked, all kinds of other questions in his tone. “You still need me?”

The truck had been rolling beside her, but now it jerked to a stop. Slider got out, left the driver’s door open, and stalked around the front of the old Chevy. She stepped back as he came at her, until her spine bumped into the faded blue metal next to the passenger door. “I guess not, Dare, thanks,” she managed.

Nailing her with a stare that made her suddenly warm despite the chilly rain, Slider took the phone from her hand and pressed it to his ear. “Dare?” Pause. “I have her.” Pause. “Yeah, I’m fucking sure.” He signed off the call and tossed the phone through the open window and onto the passenger seat.

And then it was just the two of them. Standing nearly chest to chest in a downpour. Not speaking. Not moving. And Cora felt torn between the desire to hug him for coming after her and hit him for provoking the anxiety she managed to keep battened down tight ninety-nine percent of the time.

“I was a dick,” he said.

“Yep,” she agreed.

He stared at her for another long moment. “I’m kinda fucked up over here, Cora.”

Her lips almost twitched in humor, but she bit back the impulse, because those seven words were quite possibly the most honest, personal thing he’d said to her in three months of working for him. And it felt . . . important, like some wall had come down between them. Or, at least, started to. “I know, but on some level, aren’t we all?”