The long hair blowing in the open air of the convertible wasn’t Shade’s, though. It was Tony’s and I was so dern glad to see her I didn’t care how she’d gotten Shade’s car keys again or how she'd escaped the watchful eyes of her father.
“Hey!” I yelled, leaping out from the protective doorway. “TONI! HEY!” I ran down the middle of the street, waving my arms frantically. “TONI!”
The car stopped and she turned around in her seat. “T.R.?” she called out. The gears made a grinding noise before she finally found reverse and backed up to where I was standing.
“What are you doing here?” we both asked at the same time. I jumped over the passenger door and settled into the seat.
“I’m looking for Shade,” she said. “I thought he’d be with you.”
“No way.” I looked around. “Drive. Hurry up. Let’s get out of here. This is a dangerous place. Drive!”
Toni just sat there. “Why should I? You didn’t take me to the mall!”
I looked her dead in the eyes. “Toni, I mean it. Drive!”
“You’re no fun,” she said, but she rammed the transmission into drive and took off down the street. A couple of days ago I was totally scared riding with Toni. Tonight, or rather this morning, I’d jumped into the car willingly and was begging her to speed away.
“Do you know where the police station is?” I asked.
“Thanks to you I do,” she replied.
“Good. Go park behind it.”
“Can we see Freddy and Darryl?”
I let out a little laugh as I punched Casey’s number on my phone again. “You two all right?” I asked when she answered her phone.
“Yes. So far. But they’re right behind us.”
“Head to the parking lot behind the police station,” I told her. “I’ll meet you there.”
Casey repeated what I said to Runt. “We’re there in three,” she said optimistically and hung up.
Toni turned down Wm. J. Bryan Parkway, then made a right onto Texas Avenue. A couple seconds later Casey and Runt pulled behind us in my Mustang. Tom in a super tall, big-wheeled monster truck with lime green flames was close on their tail.
We’d gone two blocks when Runt’s duelie turned onto Texas Avenue right behind Tom.
“Now who?” I said out loud. But it didn’t take a game of twenty questions to figure it out. That had to be Shade.
“Well, Toni. You found Shade,” I told her.
“I’d rather see Freddy and Darryl,” she replied.
Fickle girl. But then who was I to talk. Earlier I had experienced a Dant-kiss when what I really wanted was the Shade-kiss.
A block away from the police station, Tom must have figured out where we were going because he peeled off to the right and disappeared down a side street. Shade got to move up a notch in the parade. The caravan pulled into the station’s back parking lot usually reserved for squad cars. We all tumbled out of our vehicles.
“T.R.,” Casey yelled as she ran up and threw her arms around me, twirling me in a circle. Toni was jumping up and down, clapping her hands in contagious excitement.
“I pulled my pistol on them!” Casey yelled in my ear. “I pulled my pistol and told them to back off! And they totally did!”
Runt let out whoop. “You should have seen her with that gun! Man, she was great!” They both had pure adrenaline flowing through their veins. I was a smiling fool with a really sore butt.
Shade didn’t join our little group. He was leaning against the pickup door, arms crossed. It reminded me of the first time Toni had stolen his car.
“Toni,” I said sobering. “Go apologize to Shade for taking his convertible again without his permission.”
“Yes,” I said sternly.
“No,” she said as Freddy walked out the back door of the station.
“What’s going on out here?” Freddy asked, but his voice was too friendly to be official.
“SorryShade,” Toni said as she ran over to stand beside Freddy. “Hey, Freddy.”
“Hey, Gorgeous,” Freddy said, patting her on the head like a puppy.
Shade looked down at his boots and shook his head. “I’ve been replaced…thank God.”
Still shaking his head, Shade started walking my way. He passed Freddy and placed a hand on the deputy’s shoulder. “I hope you have lots of vehicles,” Shade said. Freddy gave him a confused look. “We’ll talk about it later,” Shade told the deputy as he continued walking towards me. When he got within an arm’s length, I started backing up.
“Stay away from me, Shade,” I told him. “Stay away.” I don’t know what I thought he’d do to me but I knew, at the very least, he was furious. “Now, Shade….”
I glanced over at Casey. She had a big grin on her face. The back of my legs and my bruised butt bumped against the hood of the convertible.
“Ouch,” I whispered weakly.
Shade stretched an arm out on each side of my hips until his hands were flat on the car. I bent over backwards trying to steer clear of him.
Shade and I were nose-to-nose, eyeball to eyeball, with my back laid across the car.
“He sniffed the air. “Do you smell…a pine tree?”
“Umm…no,” I said. My heart was already beating so fast the lie went unnoticed.
“I’ve been worried sick about you,” he said. “Good God, the things that could have happened to you.”
I swallowed hard, thinking the same thing. If he only knew.
“I should turn you over my knee and spank you. Don’t ever do this to me again, T.R. Like it or not, I’m in love with you. And there’s nothing I can do about it.”
My brain bounced back and forth trying to wrap itself around his words. Our lips were so close our breaths mingled. If I’d licked my lips, I would have moistened his too. I closed my eyes as he planted the Shade-kiss on my mouth. My chocha spontaneously combusted and I put my arms around his neck and kissed him back.
Wave after wave of delicious desire swept over me. I’ve been kissed by Shade in the past but it had never felt like this. There were no lingering thoughts of Dant-kisses wandering through my head. In fact, the Shade-kiss blocked everything out of my mind. I wanted more of whatever he had to give.
Vaguely I heard a spattering of applause around us. As the kiss dragged on, the applause turned into nervous throat clearing and dirt kicking. OK, everybody wasn’t as excited about the Shade-kiss as I was. Runt and Casey wanted to tell their side of the adventure and Toni simply wanted to talk with Freddy. But I wanted to go on kissing Shade forever.
We didn’t stop kissing. We merely untouched our lips. But not our eyes. Not our hands. Not our bodies. Just the lips unkissed. I put my head on Shade’s shoulder and everybody started yapping at once.
“Well, obviously something’s happened that I don’t know about,” Shade said, calmly. His demeanor was quiet, too quiet. I could tell he was mad at being left out of this caper. Mad and horny and curious ─ not a good combination in a man. “I need to hear all about this, but not here. We have three vehicles to get home, so let’s all go to my place to debrief.”
Oof. The visual I suddenly had. “Debrief?” I asked.
“Behave,” Shade said with a smile.
Freddy stuck out his lower lip, faking a pout. “Can I come too? I’m off work.”
“NO!” I said a little too loudly. “I…um…mean we…a…have some business we need to talk about that’s…a…personal.”
“You sure this isn’t cop business?” Freddy asked suspiciously.
“We’re sure,” we all said in unison. Quickly we divided up and headed towards our different cars. Shade pulled me towards the duelie but I dug in my heels.
“I’ve got to go with Toni,” I said, “Or no telling where she’ll end up.”
“Damn. Right,” he agreed and we let our hands slip apart.
The Mustang with Casey and Runt pulled out of the lot first. Then Shade, reluctantly, in the duelie. The little red convertible was last in line. It was hard getting Toni away from Freddy.
“You sure I can’t go?” Freddy asked again. “It looks like a fun party to me.”
Toni said OK but I said no. “Next time, Freddy,” I called back as I stepped on the gas and sped away.
We were only seconds behind Shade. I could see the taillights of the duelie and mustang up ahead.
My mind sing-songed Shade’s words. He loves me. He loves me.
I picked up my cell phone and punched Whitey’s cell number. They never sleep. I had to check on Consuelo. The phone rang several times on Whitey’s end but no one answered.
He loves me. He loves me. I could hardly think clearly with those words repeating over and over in my head.
The red taillights up ahead turned the corner, headed for the country. Toni and I were still in the quiet warehouse district, where things were dead as roadkill.
Sha-a-a-ade loves me. Sha-a-ade loves me.
Wham! Crunch! Screech. Severe bump, bump, bump. The convertible jerked to a sudden halt, the cell phone flying out of my hand, out of the car, in fact. Toni and I both looked backwards over our shoulders.
We didn’t have to look far. The bumper of Tom’s super tall, big-wheeled monster truck was in the seat right behind us. He’d driven right up over the trunk of Shade’s little red car.
“Shit!” I said, looking up from the grill to the hood ornament high above us.
Toni grabbed me and almost crawled into my lap. “T.R.,” she said, starting to cry. “I’m scared.”
“We’re OK. We’re not hurt, Toni,” I said, pushing her back into her seat. I gunned the motor, trying to pull the convertible free from the truck. The tires spun but the car didn’t move. I felt like the little red apple in a big pig’s mouth at barbeque time.
Toni cried out again. “T.R., I’m scared.”
Me too. Me too.
I shifted into a lower gear and gunned the engine again. I could smell the rubber of the smoking tires.
“I’m glad I’m not driving,” Toni whispered.
Me too. Me too.
I heard the doors of Tom’s monster truck pop open. I tried my own door but it was jammed.
“Come on, Toni!” I said. “Jump over the door!” If I’d been by myself, I would have already leaped out of the car and be running down the street but I had Toni to think about. She was my responsibility. By the time she got her legs under her to jump, Tom and Eddy had swung down out of the Dodge and were beside us, guns in hand.
Tom’s face was all sneer. Toni’s was all panic. I sat back on my haunches, folding my arms across the steering wheel, wondering what was going to happen next.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t Miss Texas Hold’em herself,” said Tom. “What are the odds of running into you? Literally.”
Eddy pounced on the statement. “Odds were damn good since she was at the end of the line. Get out, bitch.” I’d heard his voice before, when he was soaking wet and digging into his pants.
He waved his gun at us. I wasn’t imagining guns the other day after all. A lot of good the knowledge did me now, especially since Shade wasn’t here to see the proof.
Slowly I raised my butt to sit on the seat back, then rolled my legs over the side of the car. Toni did the same and she started talking.
“Shade’s gonna be mad about his car. He loves his car. I put his truck in the river. I was gonna put his car in there but then T.R. and I were goin’ to the mall ‘cause I needed jeans and two shirts and a bra but then Freddy and Darryl came up and gave me a…”
“Shut up! Egad, you got a mouth on you,” Tom, the Stalkin’ Starer, said.
Eddy reached out to Toni’s hair and started stroking it. “Leave her alone!” I said sternly.
Eddy cut his eyes to me with a warning look. “Whacha gonna to do about it?”
“Don’t hurt this girl,” I said to them both. “She may look like a woman but she’s just a little girl, really.”
“Leave her alone, Eddy,” Tom said in a low growl. “We don’t have time for this now.”
Eddy immediately took his hand away from Toni’s hair. I stepped over to her and she put her arms around me, burying her face in my neck.
“Go back the truck off that car and make sure it’s drivable,” Tom told his partner.
Eddy gave him a blank look. “Of course it’s drivable. We just drove it here!” he said.
Tom shot him a look that started with the word ‘idiot.’ “The car, stupid. Make sure the car’s drivable.”
“Oh. Right. The car. I thought you….”
“I know what you thought,” Tom interrupted. “Just do it.”
Tom turned his attention back to me. “Your little girlfriend’s going to take Shade’s red convertible for a ride. I’m gonna send her back to Brother Runt with a message about you. She’ll be my own pretty little carrier pigeon.”
Eddy swung up into the truck and tried to back it off the car but the Dodge and the convertible clung together in a passionate embrace. He threw the transmission into first gear and rocked the Dodge forward. Then he jammed it into reverse and rocked the Dodge backward. Nothing. He tried again and again. First gear. Reverse. First again. Reverse again. Back and forth. The three of us watched, fascinated. It was like witnessing little cars and trucks being conceived.
With a loud crunch the vehicles separated. I felt like I should offer the monster truck a cigarette.
“Holy cow!” Toni said, with eyes as big as the truck’s tires. I wondered what she was thinking. Her range of experience might be limited but she had plenty of natural urges going for her.
Eddy jumped out of the large vehicle and into the smaller one. We knew the convertible’s motor would start but could the car actually move down the road? It looked deformed with its flattened trunk and back seat. They were small to begin with but now Shade had a classic two-seater car like Whitey’s.
But the convertible could still move. Eddy peeled out, made a uey, and came back to us.
“It’s hard to corner and jerky as hell, but it can get her there,” Eddy said as he hopped out over the jammed door.
“Jump in, pretty little carrier pigeon,” Tom said to Toni. “You go find Runt and you tell him his sister is gonna look like this car’s butt if he doesn’t get in touch with me and do what he’s supposed to do. I’m through playing around with this. It happens now. You got that?”
Toni climbed into the car and just sat there. I knew she didn’t understand all of what Tom had said but I thought with me missing and the car looking like it did, the message would be delivered.
Toni looked scared. I know I was shaking. “T.R.?” she said.
“Go home to Shade, Toni,” I said. She gave us that gorgeous smile and I felt Eddy achieve the greatest sexual experience of his life. He reached out for her but she floored the accelerator and was gone down the block with her characteristic reckless speed. It took several minutes for the glazed look to leave Eddy’s eyes.
Tom said, “Let’s go,” and jerked me by my shirt sleeve to the truck. At least, I thought to myself, I’d find out how to get up into one of these monster trucks.
Tom reached up and opened the door for me but I didn’t have a clue what to do next. “Reach up to the seat bottom with one hand and the arm rest with the other, grab hold, and lift your body with your arms,” he said. “Then put your foot on that step.”
“Yeah, right,” I said. I knew with my chest, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’ll tip forward for sure.
“Cripes, I’ll make a step for your foot,” said Tom. For a moment there it looked like he was going to ask me to hold his gun but then he stuck it in his waistband and formed a step with his hands, weaving his fingers together. I put my foot onto it like a jockey mounting a horse and Tom all but tossed me into the cab. I scooted to the center of the truck seat.
I would not cry. I would not! These men wanted Runt, not me. At least my brother was safe for now. They’d use the fact they’d captured me to get to him, but surely they wouldn’t hurt me. Wouldn’t rape me. Wouldn’t hit me. Oh, why didn’t I listen to Shade and Runt. They said I needed a man and I could sure use one on my side right now
As both men hauled themselves up in the Dodge, I looked them over pretty good. Tom was attractive with his dark hair and tanned features. He oozed privileged upbringing. Eddy looked like a big, dumb boy. Neither man seemed to be the type who’d hurt a woman, but I had to remember ─ one of them killed Sloppy. One of them had grabbed me from behind and yanked my neck. One of them was dangerous!
Maybe I should try to establish a relationship with these kidnappers. I read somewhere about a lady who did that and her captors let her go. Somehow I doubted that would happen in this case, though.
“Why would anyone want a truck like this?” I asked. Neither man said a word.
“How’s Runt going to know where we’re at?”
Still silence. “Gonna be a long night, isn’t it!” I concluded out loud.
I was glad Toni was out of the mix. I was worried enough about myself. Still, I wondered if she’d make it all the way back to Shade’s ranch with the convertible disabled like that or if she’d get stuck in the dark on some country road, a beautiful woman-child at the mercy of passing strangers.
Adrenalin from all the excitement had long since left my body. I felt drained, both mentally and physically. My stomach was fighting against throwing up. My bladder felt close to bursting. My butt hurt. My shoulder had started aching sometime after hurtling through Sirlo’s vent. A newly painted fingernail had broken back to the quick. I’d lost an earring ─ OK, I had thrown it away testing the vent but either way it was gone. And I no longer knew or cared where my purse was, something that could get me thrown out of the Girls Night Out Society. Not to mention I’d lost my cell phone ─ major Girls Night Out violation.
I was so exhausted I couldn’t even make up a headline about this kidnapping. I was sitting between two stinking ─ literally ─ men who I didn’t even know but I knew enough about them to know that being with these cretins was not a good thing.
The big truck was not the smoothest running machine I’d ever ridden in. As it bobbed and weaved through the darkened streets, my nausea continued to grow. I was getting seriously carsick. I tried to figure out where we were going, but with the adrenalin crash and the carsickness, my brain wouldn’t function properly. I closed my eyes for a second and promptly blacked out. I barely noticed when we stopped and an enormous garage door opened.
We drove in and I heard Tom say, “She still livin’?”
“Yeah,” Eddy replied and they jumped down out of the truck. I used that to my advantage and spread out on the seat to play dead, which wasn’t very much of a stretch. Maybe this was all a bad dream and I’d wake up in my own bed. I’ve read books like that.
But when I woke up hours later, I was still inside the cab of the monster truck.