With that qualifying disclaimer, we continue with our regularly scheduled novel. Enjoy! :0)
Cason. She thought as she drove to the Nigel residence, her windshield wipers going at high speed. After everything he’d done he let her believe that he’d left his best friend to die. He’d told her he’d done nothing for Ryan. Only he’d been half right. All this time later and she was just now putting the pieces together. He’d nearly been blown apart. It’d been a blood bath. Her mind was vivid in conjuring up Ryan’s shot and bloody body and now though instead of seeing Cason step over him, he was ripped and bloody next to him. Trying to pick him up, trying to carry him to safety.
She choked back a scream as she slammed on her brakes in the pouring rain. Uprooted in the road, barely visible in the dark downpour, was the trunk and gnarled branches of a snapped oak tree. The SUV’s brakes locked and on the rain slickened road the tires hydroplaned. It was too late to stop. The SUV was traveling too fast. Instincts made her yank the wheel to the side. The SUV’s wheels chirped once and the entire vehicle went into a tail to nose spin.
Sophie yanked the wheel the other way as the world outside her window blurred. The wheels caught and in one moment the entire SUV lurched then tumbled. Glass shattered into the cabin, metal screamed and crunched under its own momentum. The massive tree, smashed into the side of the careening vehicle. Twigs, leaves and water mixed into the violent blender of particles and glass of the cabin. As the passenger side struck the tree another set of explosions went off.
Sophie’s screams were silenced by the airbag blowing her back against her seat. The side bag exploded, slapping her hand from the wheel. The SUV rocked up and fell with a crash over a ripped limb. Battered, the vehicle sat silent, save for its running motor. Pounding rain rushed into the smashed vehicle, wetting Sophie’s bloodied face and arms.
Pieces of glass were everywhere, parts of the dash had come off and fragments of the side view mirror sat in the now crushed passenger seat. Sophie, dazed, looked around.
She was sideways. Cold wet rain splattered her face, the distinct flavor of blood mingled in her mouth. The cabin, she saw, was filled with leaves and twigs.
Pain jarred her senses, her arms ached and it was painful to draw breath. Sophie took inventory, she could feel everything down to her toes, but felt like she’d been in a prize fight. Groaning she reached for her seatbelt latch. She tried to yank it loose but the passenger seat had crushed the console against the buckle.
She yanked again but it wouldn’t budge. She tried slipping loose of the belt, but it had locked in place. All the jarring shot pain through her side and she sucked in her breath. With it she recognized the unmistakable smell of gasoline. Looking out the front windshield she saw what had been her hood was crushed and branches, that were beginning to smoke, jabbed out of it. Reaching forward she grabbed the ignition switch and tried to turn it off. Part of the steering wheel casing had been ripped off, just above her knee. A thick branch sat wedged just below the ignition switch.
Panic bubbled up into Sophie, “Fuck.” She said and tried to bring her knee up and knock the branch loose. It was too far wedged into the shaft to budge. It was then that she smelt the burning wood, feeling a renewed sense of panic Sophie yanked at her seatbelt.
She reached around the car looking for anything flat, she grabbed a piece of what had been the housing for the side view mirror and wedged the piece between the crushed console and where her belt latch disappeared under it. Shoving it hard the piece snapped in half.
“Shit.” She whispered then reached for a piece of broken glass. The edge was far from sharp but Sophie applied it to the belt. The large piece crumbled under her hand, fractioning into smaller pieces, slivers of it sliced at her palm.
Tossing the glass aside she started pulling at the belt again making it tighter and tighter. “No…”
Siting sideways she saw her purse tucked under the dash of the passenger side. Her phone, just a reach away.
Rain sizzled on the heat of the motor, blending steam in with the acrid smoke.
The dash had been shoved down in the tumble making her unable to get her leg out to use her toe to grab the bag. Sophie tucked the upper belt behind her and hung sideways reaching for her purse. The strap just out of reach.
“Goddamnit!” she yelled reaching for it.
Leaning forward however afforded her another view of the wreck, the burning wood smell was an actual fire under the hood.
“Oh god.” She whispered. “Help!” she hollered. The dense wood stretch to the Nigel’s would be deserted in the midst of a storm. Everyone being smarter than her and staying indoors, but she had no other choice but to call out.
“HELP!” she screamed as the front flames fanned by the whipping wind and engine oil gained height. “Somebody help me!”
She yanked at her seatbelt again as smoke began to billow up.
“HELP!!” she screamed again, the frightening realization that she might be burned alive like a trapped animal filled her mind.
A branch snapped next to her and a familiar voice called to her, “Sophie!”
“Here!” she gasped choking on smoke, “I’m trapped, help me!” she said panicked.
Another branch snapped then the voice of Cason McPherson carried into the cabin. “Hold on, I’m coming. Everything is smashed.”
Sohpie nearly wept at the sound of his voice.
He appeared then over the edge of her window just a few seconds later.
“Cason…” she said and reached for him, “Help me, I can’t get out, my seatbelt…”
His eyes had gone dark and sharp as if he were in a different time and place. His arm shot out and grasped hers firmly wrapping his palm around her upper arm. He looked into the cabin and then to the fire of the engine. He reached down past her with his other hand to the ignition.
“It’s stuck, there’s a branch in it.” She said and feeling the last of her dignity slip away begged him, “Please Cason, help me.” She said over the crackle of the building fire and the whine of her trashed motor.
“Here,” he said grasping her hands put them around his neck, “Hold on.”
Sophie didn’t hesitate, she gripped him tight as he leaned in. His other hand went around her middle and held her tight.
The fire suddenly billowed high throwing heat against them both, catching on the gasoline, “Shit.” Cason whispered and Sophie felt him reach back then produce the military blade she’d left behind.
It took him just a second to cut Sophie’s seatbelt. The belt gave but at her angle her legs were still pinned under the steering wheel.
“I know, I’m stuck. I can’t get out at this angle.” She looked down, “here, let me go and I’ll crawl out the back.”
“No, the fire is getting too hot Soph, you need to get out now.”
“I know, but I can’t.” She said and winced as he gave her a pull, “Oh god Cason, that hurts.”
She heard him swear under his breath, “Ok. I’ll… here,” He said letting her down.
Sophie slid down his arms into the smoking cabin and crawling over the passenger seat into the back felt the car rock back.
She stopped halfway as Cason swore above her, “Hurry Soph! This thing is pissing gasoline.”
“Fuck it, move your ass Sparling!” he shouted over the now roar of fire from the front.
Glass dug into her knees and hands as she grabbed the driver’s headrest and reached for him through the back window. Cason’s grip was like steel on hers. Just as his fingers tightened about her wrist the whole SUV rocked and sunk down farther onto the tree.
Sophie screamed as she was knocked back swinging out into the cabin. Cason slammed forward his other arm bracing them both on the passenger window.
Pain tore up Sophie’s right side, as she dangled in Cason’s grip. Heat slapped the side of her face and she realized then that the dash was melting.
Cason roared above her and in one move Sophie was yanked out of the wreckage. The pain in Sophie’s side exploded and as Cason’s grip wrapped around her making everything go black.
Cason hauled Sophie screaming from the wreckage and as he picked her up she passed out. Her car was a wrecked torch and as it sat on top of the fallen tree, he wished he had one of those goddamn cell phones. Praying he didn’t kill her getting down off the tree, Cason maneuvered about branches and broken limbs, the crackle and snap of the fire behind him.
Sophie in a death grip in his arms, Cason made it to the ground and to his truck. Yanking the door open with one hand he put her in the passenger seat.
“Soph,” he said tapping the side of her face, “Come on Soph, wake up.” He said trying to keep his deja vu at bay. “Come on, wake up… look at me Soph, say something mean, please…” he gave her face a harder tap that made a smacking sound.
Sophie’s eye lids fluttered open and she groaned, “My side is on fire,” she said and winced grabbing for it, “I’m on fire.”
Relief flooded through him. And for just a moment he was reckless with his feelings. He grabbed her up into his arms and slid one hand into her hair gripping her tight to him, “Thank god.”
She groaned again and pushed him away, “My ribs.”
“Hang tight.” He said and pulled his passenger seatbelt across her gently securing it.
The road back to the house was littered with more branches and high water spots. Thankful his truck was sticking to the road despite the loss of visibility as they maneuvered slowly around the bends back toward her mother’s house.
“You still with me?”
Just a groan came from his side seat, and Cason pressed on a bit faster. Eventually the house came into view and parking in the driveway, Cason came around and pulled Sophie from the passenger seat. Rain beat down on them, torrents of water washing away the smoke and grime. A gash on Sophie’s forehead bled into the water spreading it across her cheek and down her neck in a gruesome rivulets.
“I can walk, Cason.”
He just mumbled, “Not on my watch,” and picked her up into his arms and carried her into the house.