(Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this, everyone. Hope this works! For those of you new to the Fiction Relay, you might want to start here.)
Her wrists still bound in front of her, Suzi leapt to her feet and stood frozen in the middle of the alley, her muscles tensed to run. She stared at Sam through the open passenger door of the black Jaguar, not sure whether she could trust him, but also knowing Raj would be here any second. Sam’s gaze intensified.
Get in now!
It was as though he’d breathed the words next to her ear, but he was still in the car and his lips never moved. The memory of her dream last night rushed back—his hands stroking her body, and those same lips kissing, caressing her skin. Desire surged through her even as reality hit: it hadn’t been a dream! She took a startled step backward. Sam had been there last night and had somehow managed to slip into her head!
“How—?” she started to ask, but was interrupted by a loud crack. Suzi jumped and whirled to the left. A ten-foot wall of fire erupted across the alley, a few feet behind Sam’s car. Horrified, she whipped to the right, already knowing.
He was here.
Raj stalked toward them with slow, menacing steps. A leering grin curled on his lips, but his eyes roiled with the same, black hatred she’d come to know and fear. He held out his hand to her.
He flicked his fingers. Pain shot through her sternum. Her chest lurched forward, as though Raj was pulling her by an invisible hook. Suzi shrieked. She tried to plant her feet and resist, but Raj’s pull was too strong and the pain was too intense. Raj gave a dark chuckle.
Suddenly a large dumpster zoomed away from a brick wall on the side of the alley. It plowed into Raj and kept going until it crashed into a wall on the opposite side. Suzi collapsed, landing on her knees and forearms, panting as the pain began to ebb. A pair of strong arms lifted her up and quickly tucked her into the Jag. Sam pulled out a knife and, with a quick flick, severed the rope that bound her.
“You’re a telepath,” she breathed, rubbing her wrists.
“Among other things,” he grunted. The knowledge shouldn’t have been a turn-on, but it was. She was glad the intense heat she suddenly felt could be plausibly denied by the wall of flames behind them. She shouldn’t be attracted to this man. She shouldn’t feel safe around him!
“You killed Melissa, didn’t you?” Suzi asked, partly to get answers, and partly to remind herself that Sam was dangerous.
Sam didn’t answer. Something creaked down the alley. He looked up and dashed around to the driver’s seat.
“And you saved me from Raj. Why—?”
“Not yet I didn’t!” He gunned the engine.
Up the alley, to Suzi’s horror, the dumpster groaned back away from the wall. Raj scrambled to his feet, looking uninjured but royally pissed. Behind them the wall of fire doubled in size and heat. Raj roared and ran toward them. Sam threw the Jag in reverse and floored it backward through the flames. Suzi held her breath as, for an instant, the temperature flared so uncomfortably hot she thought she might melt. Sam kept his gaze out the rear windshield; Suzi kept hers riveted out the front.
The fire disappeared. Raj ran past where the flames had been. They were gaining distance, but he was still coming at them. His eyes burned straight through her. Her pulse hammered at her chest. She pushed her toes into the floorboards, as though she could get even farther away by shoving backward into the seat.
Sam rocketed the rest of the alley and onto the street. Then he shifted into drive and sped off. She twisted to look out the rear window.
“Hey, we made it. You’re okay.” He put his hand on her thigh and squeezed. She turned back around in her seat and gave him a doubtful look. He took her hand, winked at her, and relief flooded her system. Suzi exhaled breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. Then she remembered something.
“There was a bag under your bed. Is that the one you mean?”
“Yes! You saw it? Then they didn’t get it. Did you get it?”
“Here.” He reached inside his jacket, pulled out her iPad and thumb drives, and handed them to her. “That’s all that was in it.”
“But the bag itself…?”
“I didn’t get it. Why?”
“Shit! Sam, I have to go back there!”
The last of the blood cleaned from her face, she examined the mark on her forehead. Raj had been angry. The mark would be a permanent reminder not to let him down again. If she did, there would be no more “next time.”
She had almost enjoyed the unspoken game of cat-and-mouse that had been her job for so long. Watching—just watching—her opponent every day in the diner. But now that Raj was back everything had changed. The pieces were already being set in motion.
It was interesting, though, that her opponent had recognized Suzi’s significance before she, herself, had. Then again, she’d seen the way they’d reacted to each other. Their instant connection had been electric. It was stupid of her not to recognize right then who—and what—Suzi was.
And it was a shame that she’d had to kill Gino.
With a last look around her apartment, Melissa picked up her small suitcase and vanished.
Over to you, TRG….
Nope, over to you, Hasty Words! (Welcome to the Relay!) 🙂