Read Colliding Worlds Trilogy 03 - Explosion Online

Authors: Berinn Rae

Tags: #romance, #paranormal

Colliding Worlds Trilogy 03 - Explosion (9 page)

BOOK: Colliding Worlds Trilogy 03 - Explosion
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“Pray like hell?”

She rolled her eyes. “A lot of good that will do for an atheist.”

Jax shrugged, and then nodded toward the back seat. “Right now, the most important thing is to keep our energy up. There’s some water in the back.”

Talla snapped around, not caring when she sharply pinched a wing against a seat belt latch, and discovered an entire case of bottled water. Next to it was a plastic bag bulging from its contents. She belted out a laugh. “
Leghat!
” She went straight for the water, grabbed a couple bottles and the bag.

“Here,” she said, handing Jax a bottle before situating herself again in the front seat. After drinking a half bottle, she rummaged through the plastic bag to find different kinds of deli meats and cheeses. “You’ve been busy.”

“I got lucky. It was a vacation home, and they must’ve just gotten in this morning. I grabbed the bag and water from the fridge and left.”

Talla shoved an entire slice of ham in her mouth. While chewing none too gracefully, she pulled out a package of sliced turkey and handed it to Jax, who took it with an amused smile.


Whup?
” she asked, her mouth too full to enunciate.

“You’re kind of cute when you’re pulling the Tasmanian Devil routine.”


Tashman Devuhl?
” She swallowed. “What’s that?”

“An old cartoon character. I’ll show you sometime.” He dug into his own protein feast.

She shrugged, breaking out a slice of white cheese scattered with holes next. As she let the cheese soften in her mouth, she had to give the humans credit. Their food was a dozen times better than dull Sephian cuisine. Draeken cuisine was good and spicy, but lacked the salt of human food. Earth was loaded with the mineral, and Talla planned to enjoy salt on everything.

It didn’t take either of them long to go through three packages of meat and two packages of cheese. Talla leaned back in her seat, sipping on a second bottle of water.

Jax gave her a thoughtful look. “Why don’t you crawl in back and take a nap?”

“I’ve slept plenty,” she replied, touching her still-swollen cheek for dramatic flair. Her mood instantly sobered. “How’d he die?”

Jax’s mouth tightened. He took another swig of water before replying. “He rammed the truck into the oncoming troops. Slowed them down enough to put some distance between us and them.”

“Sounds like Laze,” she murmured. She gave a silent thanks to her brother for his sacrifice.
Sheescaten, ta deiti.
A chill of loss worked up her spine, and she gave an involuntary shiver. Abruptly, she downed what was left in the bottle, crumpled it, and tossed it into the back seat.

Neither spoke for the next few hours. Jax kept his eyes on the road while Talla scanned the countryside and sky for any sign of their pursuers. Fortunately, this vehicle had a paper map, and she learned how valuable it could be in avoiding any highways.

Rather than making a direct line back to the Etzee, they’d agreed that taking winding back roads would be their best chance at throwing off any pursuers. The troops would suspect they’d either be trying to get to the
Striga
or trying to put as much distance between themselves and the Etzee. Instead, they’d driven toward the east, where there were more side roads but fewer trees.

Twilight had set in, and Talla squinted as she scanned the countryside. “Without
tensatlen
, I can’t see at night.”

“I wore a pair of those before, except Sienna called them
drades
. They were a big improvement over our night vision goggles. But, you’re right. We have to dig in for the night.” The SUV slowed, and Jax turned off road into a dry creek bed. She held onto the dashboard as he drove down the ravine until the road behind them was out of sight. Then he drove a bit longer. When the dirt turned into mud, he revved the engine, and the large SUV lurched onto the embankment, snapping small trees unfortunate enough to be caught in its path. He pulled under the cover of a huge pine and cut the engine.

Talla took in their surroundings. They were well surrounded by the old creek bed and trees. Any deeper into the woods, and the SUV would get hung up. Without the engine noise or movement of the road, they seemed even more alone than before. Jax’s masculine presence seemed to fill the vehicle. Suddenly self-conscious, Talla spoke. “This looks like a good spot.”

“If anyone comes through on foot this way, we’re fucked,” Jax scowled on the last word. “I mean, we’ll stand out like a sore thumb. Who the hell ever came up with ‘iridescent pearl’ for a paint color?” He turned and grabbed a bottle of water. “This is as good a cover as we’re going to get for the night. We should at least be hidden from any vehicles passing by — and possibly drones overhead — as long as they don’t hone in on this exact spot.”

“At least with this vehicle, we can make a quick getaway,” Talla offered.

“Yeah, but if we have to run, we’re not going far. We only have about an hour left of gas.”

“Oh,” Talla mumbled. “I sometimes forget the limits of these vehicles. Power cells on our vehicles back home constantly recharge themselves off lunar energy.” Then their predicament made her realize just how precarious of a position they were in. “How far out from the
Striga
are we?”

Jax scanned over the thick booklet of maps they’d found in the glove compartment. His fingers pinched air in a couple different directions. “Looks like at least three hours if we stick with back roads. That’s assuming they don’t set up roadblocks, but the
Striga’s
arrival means that everyone in the area knows something is going on. So I’d be surprised if they
didn’t
have checkpoints set up on every way to the Etzee by now.”

“This vehicle won’t be able to get us there.” But they’d reach the Etzee tomorrow. That thought alone blanketed the tension in her muscles with relief.

“We’ll get go-juice in the morning,” Jax said, tossing the now empty plastic bottle into the backseat. “Or, getting a new car may be easier. It looks like we’re coming up on a small town in just a few miles.” He closed the map and set it on the dash.

“Good. If we start early, it shouldn’t be too hard.”

He turned his gaze on her. “We have several hours. I’ll take first watch. Get some rack time.”

Talla noticed the dark circles under his eyes. Though he didn’t act the least bit tired, she knew he must be exhausted. “You didn’t sleep after you sent Laze and me away last night, did you?”

“I had to contact Sienna and Roden. You?”

“A little.” She took a deep breath. “Um, listen … if you hadn’t stopped by — ”

“Don’t think about it,” he cut in. “It’s all taken care of.”

She remembered Roden’s words from earlier. “I’m sorry that you had to kill your own kind.”

He shrugged, but the motion was tight, abrupt. “They were criminals that should’ve been locked up years ago.”

“Well … thanks.”

“No problem.” He reached for the door handle, and she put a hand on his arm.

“Let me take first watch tonight. I can scan the area from overhead without being seen.”

He frowned. “Can you fly?”

With a running start, maybe.
“Yes.”

He didn’t seem convinced, but exhaustion seemed to win. “All right. You still got the gun?”

She pulled it out of her waistband to show him. He grabbed the gun, checked it, and handed it back to her. She smirked at his over-protectiveness. “You do realize that I’ve been doing this sort of thing for my entire life.”

“If you come across anyone, hide. Got it?” he said, ignoring her.

She saluted him with a smirk. “Yes, sir.”

He sighed, as though relenting. “Wake me in an hour.”

Chapter Ten

Four hours later, Talla watched Jax step out of the SUV, his brows knitted together, while he scanned the landscape for her. She jumped off the top of the SUV, startling him.

“I told you to wake me in an hour,” he muttered, scratching his head. “Everything okay?”

She grinned.
You’re kind of cute when you’re grumpy.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she replied quickly, smoothing her features. “It’s been quiet. I scanned the area three miles out in every direction and we’re clear.” Surprisingly, she discovered that she could still fly — well, glide, anyway — short distances with a good running start. Flying had been magical, finally feeling the air break around her felt exhilarating after too long being grounded. The cool air had invigorated her. She could’ve covered watch until morning.

“Good. When’s the last time you reconned the area?”

“Twenty minutes ago.”

He looked around. “Did you happen to see any good spots for cover nearby?”

She thought for a moment. “There’s a rock overhang down by the creek not too far off that way,” she said pointing deeper into the woods. “Why? I thought we were heading out at first light.”


I’m
heading out now. It’ll be easier to grab gas or a vehicle while everyone’s still in their racks.”

Her hands went to her hips. “Then I’m coming with you.”

He shook his head. “Too risky. Your wings will give you away if we’re seen. And this is the safer location for now.”

She pursed her lips but couldn’t find anything to counter his argument. He was right. Her wings were a detriment when the rest of the world wanted her kind gone. She wasn’t about to put Jax in an unnecessary risk by being obstinate. “Fine,” she replied, making sure she sounded none too pleased. If it made him feel better thinking she was safe, then it was the least she could give in exchange for him saving her life earlier. She pulled out the gun and held it out to him.

“You keep it,” he said, pressing it back to her.

“You need it more.”

“Keep it, Talla.
Please
.”

She swallowed, tucking the gun back into her pants.

He watched her for a moment. His gaze dropped to her lips, and she found herself licking them in anticipation.

He moved closer. Her pulse quickened. Then he reached around her, opened the truck door, and leaned inside. Talla stood there, a surge of disappointment shooting through her. Jax held out two bottles of water, and she snatched both from his hands.

“If I’m not back in two hours, that means the shit hit the fan. Move deeper into the woods. This water will at least get you through the day. Travel only at night. Focus on evasion and concealment. Got it?”

She nodded. “See you soon.”

He gave her that heated look again, and a flare of hope inspired her to remain standing there rather than turning away like she should. He gripped her hand and paused, staring out beyond her. “I’ll be back soon.”

Then he was in the SUV and backing out the same way they’d come into these woods. She stood there and watched him disappear in the darkness. Only when she could no longer hear the engine noise, she turned and headed the other direction, down the creek bed for the tedious task of waiting.

Seeing it from the ground, the large slate overhang was a perfect form of concealment. She’d picked up several armfuls of leaves on trips back and forth to her cove. After the fifth trip, she lay down on her stomach, cocooning herself within her wings. She tossed leaves over her shoulder, letting them sprinkle down onto her back, and willed herself to sleep.

Talla dreamed of a wingless man with brown eyes and matching hair. He was just about to kiss her when she jolted awake. It was still dark, but dawn was already threatening to creep over the horizon. She came up on a knee, though she had to remain bent under the rock to accommodate her long wings.

She froze, waiting for any sound. Minutes later, her muscles had started to cramp from tension and lack of movement, but still she remained in her position. A spider crawled up her forearm. It moved, one willowy leg at a time, over her skin. A leaf crumpled off to her right. She couldn’t see anything through the shrubs and saplings, but the sound was unmistakable. Footsteps. Careful, deliberate footsteps.

She wanted to call out for Jax, but her gut warned her against it. Unless there was a group of people walking at precisely the same time, there was only one pair of steps cutting through the natural harmony of the woods.

Slowly, she inhaled, priming her body to spring, and tucked the gun into her waistband. She started a mental countdown as the steps came closer.
Three
. She unsnapped the sheath holding the tanto.
Two.
She gripped the handle.
One.
She pulled the blade free.
Leghat. Show time.
She lunged forward, coming behind the soldier in full gear.

The soldier wasn’t as well trained as Jax. He’d been holding his rifle but fumbled for it, stunned by Talla’s sudden presence. He whipped around just as she moved with him, grabbing his chin and pulling him toward her, slicing his neck ear-to-ear. The tanto was sharp; it went clean through the man’s throat so he couldn’t voice a sound.

She yanked the rifle from his hands before dropping him, jumping back before he could grab her or bleed on her.

The man collapsed to his knees, clawing at his throat, before falling forward.

Another sound snapped Talla’s attention up to find Jax’s venomous gaze leveled directly on her. “What the hell are you doing?” he whispered harshly as he relinquished her of the rifle. Then he got down and checked the now-dead man. “Damn it, Kohlm. You should have incapacitated him, not killed him.”

He only used her last name when he was really pissed. She bristled, keeping her voice low. “I’m not one of your soldiers so quit throwing orders at me.” She pointed to the soldier. “I couldn’t risk him making noise.”

He lowered his head. “Fuck, he didn’t need to die. He’s just a kid.”

She looked around. “Do we really have to discuss this now?” she whispered back.

His mouth thinned. Rather than going through the soldier’s gear, Jax came to his feet, and motioned her forward. “Follow me.” He took off at a jog, then a near-run, down the creek bed.

When they reached the muddy tracks where the SUV had been, nothing was there. Talla paused. “Where’s the vehicle?”

“This way,” he said, slowing but still moving forward. “The car I got couldn’t make it back this far.”

BOOK: Colliding Worlds Trilogy 03 - Explosion
10.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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